Doubling in size and blanketing the area with smoke, the Bobcat Fire continued to burn out of control in the Angeles National Forest near Azusa Thursday.
The fire quickly consumed 23,890 acres, more than doubling in size in just one day. It remained 0% contained Thursday.
Powerful Santa Ana winds dragged the flames east, making for heavy fire activity overnight in the northeastern portion of the fire towards Crystal Lakewhere, officials said on the federal InciWeb website.
The fire jumped across Highway 39, where fire officials later reported making good progress.
But the blaze was extremely active Wednesday, spotting across long ranges, torching trees and visibly running across slopes — at one point threatening homes in the foothill communities as it tore through extremely dry brush, chaparral and tall grass in the steep, rugged terrain.
The smoke was so thick, firefighting efforts from the air had to stop. But a sky crane helicopter and two additional hotshot crews joined the fight later in the day.
The good news Thursday was that the fire on the west side, near the West Fork drainage, was making its way into an area that’s already been burned in a previous fire, meaning there will be less to fuel the inferno.
And wind conditions were getting better, though weak offshore winds with gusts of up to 20 mph were forecast for the afternoon. A red flag warning has already expired.
“Fire operations will take advantage of favorable wind conditions to focus on protecting the foothill communities as those remain a priority,” officials said Thursday.
Crews of more than 530 firefighters have responded to battle the flames, and officials expect to get additional fire and overhead resources after declaring the blaze a “Type 1 incident.”
“Containment dates are dependent on resource availability,” officials said. “Currently there are limited resources for fires statewide.”
Evacuation warnings are in effect for Monrovia, Bradbury, Sierra Madre, Altadena, Duarte and Pasadena.
Warnings were lifted for people in Arcadia, but city officials told residents to stay prepared.
“Residents should have evacuation plans in place, their emergency evacuation supplies organized, and their essential personal belongings easily accessible should fire conditions change. Vehicles should be fully fueled, facing out in the driveways, and ready to leave,” Arcadia city officials said.
A Red Cross evacuation center was set up at Santa Anita Park on 285 W. Huntington Dr.
Smoke from the Bobcat Fire caused unhealthy air quality, prompting warnings for residents in the San Gabriel Valley, West San Fernando Valley and Central and Southeast Los Angeles County.
This advisory remains in effect through Friday.
“It is difficult to tell where smoke, ash or soot from a fire will go, or how winds will affect the level of these particles in the air, so we ask everyone to remember that smoke and ash can be harmful to health, even for people who are healthy,” L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said in a statement.
The fire ignited Sunday around noon near the Cogswell Dam and West Fork Day Use area, spreading rapidly amid record-breaking, triple-digit heat.
It’s still unclear what sparked the Bobcat Fire, and an investigation is ongoing.