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Monrovia fire contained; local captain warns of long fire season ahead

Posted: April 22, 2013 6:25 p.m.
Updated: April 22, 2013 6:25 p.m.

Firefighters drew containment lines Monday around the Monrovia fire, which scorched about 125 acres in the San Gabriel Mountains, as one local fire captain urged residents to clear their brush for what could be a long fire season.

The blaze in Monrovia was touched off Saturday by power equipment used by backyard gardener. More than 300 houses were under evacuation orders at the fire’s peak.

The biggest problem encountered on the fire line Monday was bears, a Monrovia city spokeswoman said. Jennifer McLain says fire crews and residents reported bear encounters at least seven times.

Smoke from the smoldering blaze is apparently sending the animals down into residential areas.

The Santa Clarita Valley has already seen several minor fires within the last week or two — fires hitting about five acres or so, said Los Angeles County fire Capt. Frank McCarthy at the Agua Dulce fire station.

With relatively little rainfall this season — only about 2 1/2 inches have fallen in Saugus since Oct. 1 — the recent heat and wind have “sucked the moisture right out of the ground,” McCarthy said.

Grass growth is more sparse than usual, but it’s sufficient to create a “ladder effect” that sends flames from the ground right up into brush branches and then trees, creating situations that promote more fast-moving fires like the Monrovia one, he said.

And while vegetation may be more sparse than usual, it provides sufficient fuel to burn — and there’s a longer fire cycle for it to do so, he said.

McCarthy said he’s talked to some residents who think they can skip brush clearance this year due to sparser growth. He urged them to do the opposite.

“This year, if they do have less fuel to cut back, it would be a good idea to double the space cleared,” he said.




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