Fire in Live Oak Canyon, Webb Schools evacuated

For the second time this week fire has threatened Claremont, this time at its western border.

At 12:52 p.m., Los Angeles County Fire received a call about a brush fire directly behind LeRoy Haynes Center at 233 West Base Line Road in La Verne, just a few hundred yards from Claremont’s western border.

Due to the hot weather and mid to high brush, the fire quickly advanced from the flash point in Broken Canyon into adjacent Live Oak Canyon, threatening homes in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County between La Verne and Claremont, according to L.A. County Fire Captain Roland Sprewell.

L.A. County Fire, U.S Department of Forestry hotshots, and air support from L.A. City Fire knocked down the fire pretty quickly thanks to a coordinated effort. In all, about 130 firefighters were involved.

Base Line Road was closed from Towne Avenue, west to Fruit Street in La Verne to allow fire crews to do their work.

About 200 people were evacuated from homes in and around the canyon including the Briney Point neighborhood where several homes were threatened and at one time surrounded by flames. At about 3:30 p.m., firefighters had the blaze largely contained to 40 acres but will be monitoring the burn area and putting out hot spots into the night.

Briney Point resident Glenn Stewart was shopping when he saw the smoke in the hills. At first he had no idea it was near his home of 39 years at the end of a private drive. But as he drove up Fruit Street, he found that Base Line Road was closed. Finding his way to Live Oak Canyon Road, he followed a fire truck up the winding road until he accessed his home.

Mr. Stewart has evacuated several times over the past 4 decades but this was different.

“This one was the scariest one so far,” he said.  “It came from the west and the wind was from the west (so) at one point big flames and smoke were coming up over my home.”

Not long after that, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy told him to leave.

“I put my groceries down and turned on the sprinklers and left,” he said.

A Los Angeles County fire crew had set up in the back yard of two homes along Wagon Horse Avenue while a hotshot crew dug a containment line just below in the canyon. Flames could be seen just over the adjacent ridge but the water drops kept the fire from getting too close to the homes.

Gary Black, an off-duty L.A. county fire fighter, was securing the property of a friend on Wild Horse and evacuating the family’s dogs. He also assisted the on-duty fire fighters by locating the keys to a locked gate.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to Captain Sprewell, who said at this point it is considered suspicious in nature but he would not speculate about whether it was intentionally started.

No structures were reported damaged as of 4 p.m. and there were no reported injuries.

Captain Sprewell did caution that southern California is heading into the traditional fire season which corresponds with the Santa Ana winds common in the fall.

“The vegetation is very dry it has been curing all summer and then as we head into fall the fire season really gets started,” he said.

Residents should be particularly careful with fire this time of year.

—Steven Felschundneff




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