A 1,000-foot radius has been designated as a stay-away zone for firefighters battling the San Gabriel Complex Fire because of a nesting baby bald eagle in the mountains northeast of Los Angeles.
The nest is not in harm's way due to the blazes, Ann Berkley, a U.S. Forest Service biologist, told the Los Angeles Times. The stay-away zone has been established to eliminate the noise and turbulence that water-dumping aircraft produce since it could disturb the young eagle and hinder its development, she said.
"We don't want to startle him out of the nest because it could be very detrimental to his survival," Berkley said.
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The baby bald eagle is believed to be between 10 to 12 weeks old. Watch video of the nest here.
It's a rarity for bald eagles to nest in the region, Berkley said, adding that since "this one nested so successfully, we're doing everything we can to protect it."
The first reports of bald eagles in the area came in late 2011, according to The Times. This baby bald eagle was initially spotted in April by amateur bird watchers.
While not an endangered species, bald eagles are protected by the government.
The battle against an 8-square-mile wildfire in the mountains northeast of Los Angeles continued Thursday. More than 1,000 firefighters are fighting two brush fires, called the San Gabriel Complex fire, that scorched brush in rough terrain in the Angeles National Forest and foothills above Duarte and Azusa.
More than 850 homes were evacuated, but residents of about 530 homes evacuated in Duarte were allowed to return Wednesday.
The Reservoir Fire broke out shortly after 11 a.m. Monday off Highway 39 near the Morris Reservoir dam north of Azusa. The fire was sparked by a vehicle running off the highway, a fatal crash along Highway 39 near the reservoir where the fire broke out, California Highway Patrol Officer Alex Rubio said.
About 90 minutes after the Reservoir Fire began, a second blaze was reported near Opal Canyon and Brookridge roads near the Duarte/Azusa border, about four miles southwest of the Reservoir Fire.
Triple-digit heat has fueled similar fires from the Pacific Coast to New Mexico, including one near Portero, a small desert town close to the Mexico border.
The continuing drought and lack of significant rain from the winter El Niño has made Southern California ripe for what could be one of the worst wildfire seasons on record. An El Niño weather pattern brought near-normal snowfall to parts of California last winter, but most of the precipitation stayed to the north of Southern California.
A five-year drought has left 40 million dead and dried-out trees in California, including 29 million that died last year alone, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.