Officials lifted all remaining mandatory evacuation orders Saturday evening as fire crews worked to gain ground over an 1,906-acre brush fire that was sparked by an out-of-control campfire in the Angeles National Forest northeast of Los Angeles.
The Colby Fire broke out early Thursday morning and raced downhill into residential areas, destroying at least five homes and sending smoke billowing into the air that was visible throughout Southern California.
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Evacuation orders for the Mountain Cove community of Azusa were lifted at 6 p.m. Saturday, the last group of residents allowed to return to their homes during the blaze, according to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. San Gabriel Canyon Road will remain closed above the Mountain Cove area.
"It's exhilarating," said Azusa resident Alexandra Ramos. "We're very appreciative to all the police and firefighters for saving our little community."
The blaze was 78 percent contained and had burned 1,906 acres as of Saturday evening, fire officials said. Full containment was expected for Tuesday morning.
Thursday night, fire crews set backfires in an effort to push the fire back into the forest and away from a foothill neighborhood. Officials announced Friday night that the Forestry Service would be lighting several backfires in hills at the West end of the city of Glendora.
"Crews made good progress," said Dave Richardson, of the LA County Fire Department. "Crews were able to work around structures and put out hot spots."
Evacuations were in effect for hundreds of homes in Azusa. Closures and evacuations were ordered from Yucca Ridge to Highway 39.
"We're going to try to get people back home as soon as we can," U.S. Forest Service spokesman Nathan Judy said.
All Glendora residents were allowed to return home Thursday night after earlier evacuations forced them from their homes in the community about 30 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
Three men were arrested in connection with the fire. They are accused of starting an illegal campfire amid the dry brush of Angeles National Forest. The fire likely spread when the men used paper to fuel the flames, according to investigators.
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The Colby Fire prompted officials to issue air quality advisories -- indicating unhealthy air. The warnings come after the driest year on record in California and what could be the driest January in the state. The all-time low rainfall record in January occurred in 1984, when just 0.3 inches of rain fell across California.
A red flag warning, indicating a high risk of wildfire because of high winds, low humidity and dry vegetation, remained in effect for the nearly a week.