A 44-year-old homeless man was arrested Sunday night on suspicion of arson in connection with a Southern California brush fire that forced evacuations and shut down a freeway, police said.
As of 11:30 p.m., the so-called Lincoln Fire in Montebello had scorched about 200 acres and was 20 percent contained, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
The fire was reported about 1:30 p.m. in the Rio Hondo riverbed near the Whittier Narrows Reservoir. Fire officials said the man, whose name was not immediately released, may have been cooking in the riverbed.
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Rosemead neighbors who were under voluntary evacuation watched anxiously as the flames crept toward them over a hillside Sunday night.
"Flames right up in here is what scared me because that's when they told us that we needed to evacuate because it (the fire) was swinging around," Sandra Estrada said.
Shooting range areas of the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area and Legg Lake, which was providing water for firefighting efforts, were evacuated just before 6 p.m. Firefighters issued voluntary evacuations for more than 30 homes on Muscatel and Hazel avenues and Darlington Street in South San Gabriel, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
All lanes of the eastbound 60 Freeway at San Gabriel Boulevard were temporarily closed due to the fire, according to the California Highway Patrol.
A helicopter that had been fighting the fire lost engine power and made a hard landing at Rose Hills Memorial Park & Mortuary in Whittier around 5:15 p.m., the LA County Fire Department said. All three people on board were uninjured, according to the FAA.
Just after 5 p.m., a young man who had been walking around the fire after being asked to leave from a dangerous area was detained by deputies, according to Dan Amador of the Montebello Fire Department.
Crews were battling the blaze in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees and wind gusts as high as 21 miles per hour. The fire was burning in multiple areas and the command post, typically the safest place during a fire, was also threatened by flames.
Lincoln Avenue was closed between Rea Drive and San Gabriel Boulevard, according to Montebello Police Department. Drivers were advised to use Montebello Boulevard as an alternate route.