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Chief warns of bad fire season after Monrovia brush fire

April 22, 2013|By Matt Stevens
  • A U.S. Forest Service firefighter, bottom left, turns to flee as flames roar up a mountainside in the early stages of a brush fire that started in the foothills of Monrovia.
A U.S. Forest Service firefighter, bottom left, turns to flee as flames… (Mike Meadows / Associated…)

As firefighters worked to contain a blaze that charred more than 100 acres in Monrovia, the city's fire chief, Chris Donovan, reminded residents that experts are predicting  a “very dry -- and very bad” fire season.

In a prepared statement released late Sunday, Monrovia officials said the brush fire that once threatened 400 homes was 85% contained, and all evacuation orders had been lifted.

Officials said an update would be provided later Monday morning.

No structures were damaged and one firefighter suffered a minor heat-related injury, said Jennifer McLain, a city spokeswoman.

PHOTOS: Fire in Monrovia

At the fire's peak, as many as 220 firefighters, 65 engines, six hand crews and air support battled the blaze, the city’s statement said.

Also in the statement, Donovan stressed the importance of clearing brush. He said the Monrovia fire was driven in part by very heavy brush that had not burned for 55 years.

Last week, The Times reported that Southern California is marching toward its fourth-driest year since 1877.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which handles fire protection for about a third of the state, said at the time that it has dealt with 150 more blazes so far this year than last year.

Cal Fire announced it was deploying fire crews early this year in some areas, including the Inland Empire, because of what it described as "extreme" dry conditions.

"We had a pretty good start to the rainy season in the fall, but when the new year showed up, the spigot just shut off," said William Patzert, the climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada-Flintridge. Then he added jokingly: "It's so dry in Los Angeles that crooks are siphoning off radiators instead of gas tanks."

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matt.stevens@latimes.com

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