Colby Fire, near Glendora, California

Smoke from the Colby Fire, as photographed by a NASA satellite

Smoke from the Colby Fire, as photographed by a NASA satellite

(Originally published at 8:20 a.m. PST, January 16, 2014)

(UPDATED at 12:42 p.m. January 20, 2014)

The incident management team reports that the Colby fire is 46 acres larger than it was yesterday, at 1,952 acres now, and they are calling it 84 percent contained.

The team reported today that resources assigned to the fire include 1,112 personnel, 45 hand crews, 100 engines, 3 helicopters, 5 dozers, 8 fixed wing aircraft, and 3 heli-tankers.

(UPDATED at 11:18, January 19, 2014)

Firefighters are gaining a stronger hold on the Colby Fire east of Los Angeles. The incident management team is now calling the 1,906-acre fire 78 percent contained.

Evacuations were lifted for the Community of Mountain Cove at 6:00 PM. January 18, 2014. No evacuation are currently in place. Highway 39 remains closed and is only open to residents.

The Colby Fire is being fought by 1,112 personnel, 26 hand crews, 100 engines, 3 helicopters, 5 dozers, 8 fixed wing aircraft, and 3 heli-tankers.

Six residences have been destroyed and five have been damaged.

Some excellent photos of the water-scooping air tankers dropping on the Colby Fire are HERE.

firefighters Colby Fire

Firefighters put in a hose lay on the Colby Fire. InciWeb Photo.

Cleveland NF engine crews Colby Fire

Cleveland National Forest engine crews after a shift on the Colby Fire. InciWeb photo.

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(UPDATE at 10 a.m. PST, January 18, 2014)

The Incident Management Team has revised the mapped size of the Colby Fire to 1,863 acres, and they are calling it 30 percent contained. Today’s high temperature is expected to reach 87 degrees with relative humidity in the single digits. They anticipate a “medium” potential for additional fire spread. The area continues to be under a Red Flag Warning until 6 p.m. for elevated wildfire danger. Today’s fire operations will be primarily focused on reinforcing containment lines along the fire’s northern perimeter and cooling hot spots.

Firefighting resources assigned include 1,112 personnel, 33 hand crews, 140 engines, 9 helicopters, 1 dozer, 4 and fixed-wing aircraft.

****

(UPDATE at 1:15 p.m. PST, January 17, 2014)

CL-415 scooping at Santa Fe dam

The photo above is a still image from an amazing video of the Super Scooper CL-415 air tankers scooping water at Santa Fe Dam yesterday. One of the videos is below, others are at Fire Aviation.

****

(UPDATE at 12:25 p.m. PST, January 17, 2014)

Below we have a map showing the official perimeter of the Colby Fire. The perimeter data was produced by the Incident Management Team as was current as of 5:04 PST January 16. Reportedly, the fire has not spread much since then. Click on the map to see a larger version.

Map of Colby Fire at 5:04 p.m. PST, January 16, 2014

Map of Colby Fire at 5:04 p.m. PST, January 16, 2014. Click on the map to see a larger version.

As you can see the fire spread into residential areas. The fact that only six homes were destroyed is a testament to the preparedness of the homeowners and the firefighters who battled the blaze.

Other maps of the fire are below.

****

(UPDATE at 8:40 a.m. PST, January 17, 2014)

The Colby Fire did not grow overnight and remains at 30 percent containment. The number of acres burned was revised downward to 1,542 as a result of more accurate mapping, and then was raised again to 1,700 acres, according to the Southern California Geographic Area Coordination Center. The number of homes burned has also been revised, to six destroyed and seven damaged, again, according to the SCGACC. Calmer winds allowed the 1,176 firefighters to improve firelines and accomplish some mopup near residences.

Map of Colby Fire at 2 a.m. PST, January 17, 2014

Map of Colby Fire, showing heat detected (in red) by a satellite at 2 a.m. PST, January 17, 2014. The yellow dots represent heat that was detected earlier. The heat icons can be as much as a mile in error.

The above map showing heat detected by a satellite at 2 a.m. Friday indicates that there was less heat on the fire than on the previous image, (scroll down below), which was taken at 10:37 a.m. on Thursday.

Evacuation notices have been lifted in the city of Glendora but they are still in effect in the community of Mountain Cove (according to the SCGACC), affecting 875 homes.

Firefighters do not expect to use any fixed wing air tankers today, but there are still nine helicopters assigned to the fire, as well as 1,176 personnel, 150 engines, and 33 hand crews.

Today we posted some photos taken at the Colby Fire taken by John Stimson.

****

(UPDATE at 5:18 p.m. PST, January 16, 2014)

At a 4:30 p.m. news conference, the following information was provided:

  • The size is still estimated at 1,700 acres, and it is 30 percent contained; they expect the containment percentage to be much higher Friday morning;
  • “The forward spread of the fire has stopped”;
  • Five homes were destroyed; 17 other structures, including homes and outbuildings, have been damaged;
  • There have been three injuries:
    • 1 resident received minor burns while protecting their home;
    • 1 firefighter was injured by a rolling rock and was treated on scene;
    • 1 firefighter suffered what was described as minor burns while trying to protect structures at the historic Singer Mansion on Kregmont Drive; the firefighter was transported to a hospital; a garage and an apartment building at the site burned, but the mansion survived;.
  • 3,700 people have been evacuated;
  • At 6 a.m. Friday, Incident Commander Mike Wakoski’s Type 2 Incident Management Team will assume command of the fire;
  • The Sheriff’s office is providing a helicopter which is downlinking real time video to firefighters on the ground;
  • Night-flying helicopters will be assigned to the fire tonight;
  • The CL-415 water scooping air tankers began working the fire “before sunrise”; five helicopters also worked the fire very early in the morning. [Note: the fire was reported at 5:40 Thursday morning; official sunrise was at 6:40 a.m. on Thursday.]
  • At least one of the three people charged with allowing their campfire to escape and start the fire has been “very remorseful”. Glendora Police Department has been consulting with the U.S. Attorney’s office about what charges will apply. The fire began within the Angeles National Forest.

After the news conference the Glendora Police announced that evacuations and road closures will be lifted at 6 pm. in Glendora only. They are still in effect in Azusa.

In related news, NASA planned to fly one of their Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar aircraft over the fire today to collect data for fire personnel.

****

(UPDATE at 2:11 p.m. PST, January 16, 2014)

Los Angeles County Fire Department Captain Thomas Richards, a spokesperson for the department, said at 2 p.m. the fire is still 1,700 acres and there is no containment. However he said they expect full containment by nightfall.

That  would be a remarkable achievement — 100 percent containment — considering the size of the fire and the very steep terrain.

Approximately 3,700 homes are under either a mandatory or voluntary evacuation order. There have been four injuries which Captain Richards described as minor; two civilians (one transported to a hospital) and two firefighters (both were transported).

The live video on KTLA show that the fire activity has decreased significantly. Air tankers are no longer working the fire, but several helicopters are still busy, dropping on small flareups.

More information, provided by the city of Glendora, can be found at:

Some of the radio traffic from the fire can be monitored.

****

(UPDATE at 12:54 p.m. PST, January 16, 2014)

The maps of the Colby Fire below shows heat detected by a satellite at 10:37 a.m. Thursday, January 16. The red dots are the approximate locations of heat, which can be as much as a mile in error.

3-D Map of Colby Fire

3-D Map, showing the approximate location of the Colby Fire at 10:37 a.m. PST January 16, 2014. Click to enlarge.

Map showing the approximate location of the Colby Fire at 10:37 a.m. PST, January 16, 2014

Map showing the approximate location (in red) of the Colby Fire at 10:37 a.m. PST, January 16, 2014. Click to enlarge.

The Los Angeles media loves to call the CL-415 water-scooping air tankers, below, “Super Scoopers”. However, they don’t have any super powers, and only carry 1,500 gallons, half of what a BAe-146, MAFFS C-130, or a next-generation air tanker can carry. But, If they have a nearby scoopable water source, they can put a large quantity of water on a fire over a period of time, with five to ten-minute turnarounds. LA County FD should be commended for contracting for two of these, and for holding them on beyond the planned end of the contract due to the extremely dry conditions in California.

Air Tanker 242, scooping, on Colby Fire, capture from FOX 11

Air Tanker 242, scooping water from a lake on the Colby Fire. (Screen capture from FOX 11)

Colby Fire

Colby Fire, 6:53 a.m. PST, January 16, 2014. Photo by Ken.

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(UPDATE at 11:43 a.m. PST, January 16, 2014)

Chief Tim Staab of the Glendora Police Department reported that three people are in jail charged with recklessly starting the fire. Chief Stabb said they were sitting around a campfire, and “were tossing papers into the campfire, and a breeze, reportedly, had kicked up and set this fire.” They are being held on $20,000 bail. They have been cooperative and at least one of them admitted to starting the fire.The men were identified as:

  • Steven Robert Aguirre, 21, homeless, previously from Los Angeles;
  • Clifford Eugene Henry Jr., 22, from Glendora, CA
  • Jonathan Carl Jarrell, 23, from Irindale, CA

A citizen reported to law enforcement that men were seen near the origin of the fire. A policeman responded, found two of the men, interviewed them, then took them to the police station where they were booked. A USFS person encountered the third man, and eventually took him to the police station as well.

The U.S. Forest Service has been on an augmented preparedness plan, staffing some engines 24 hours a day, since Sunday. Since November they have been bringing in firefighters from other parts of the state in response to the very dry conditions. However, in recent weeks, between zero and one USFS air tankers have been on duty while CAL FIRE has been constantly staffing air tankers and helicopters.

There has been one minor injury to a civilian. Two homes have burned.

The two Canadian water-scooping air tankers working this fire under contract to the Los Angeles County FD normally would have been off contract by the first of December, but they have been extended indefinitely due to the extremely dry conditions.

In addition to the 8 air tankers that have been ordered, one of the DC-10 Very Large Air Tankers that carries 11,600 gallons of retardant has also been ordered. A P2V air tanker operated by Minden has also been ordered in addition to several CAL FIRE S2T air tankers.

Firefighters are expecting the wind, which as been blowing out of the northeast, to shift out of the south this afternoon, which could cause the fire to spread further into the Angeles National Forest. They are deploying resources to deal with this new spread direction.

Ordered or on scene at the fire, are 700 personnel, at least 8 air tankers, 7 helicopters, and 70 engines.

****

(UPDATED at 10:34 a.m. PDT, January 16, 2014)

The Glendora Police Department announced on Twitter that they have three people in custody suspected of starting the Colby Fire.

The winds at the fire have slowed, as well as the rate of spread of the fire, but the weather stations (see below) are recording wind gusts at 30 to 50 mph.

LA County FD reports the fire has burned 1,700 acres. A Type 2 Incident Management Team has been ordered, with Incident Commander Mike Wakoski.

FOX TV interviewed a resident who was still at his house while the fire was 200 to 300 yards away. He demonstrated how he has been wetting down the vegetation around his home using an inch and a half fire hose, with 170 p.s.i. of pressure, he said, that was attached to a high-volume water outlet on his house. A straight stream from the nozzle was easily reaching the top of a nearby pine tree. Other residents are using relatively paltry 1/2″ garden hoses to wet down their roofs.

Orders have been placed for 8 air tankers, 6 helicopters, 12 engine strike teams (5 engines per strike team), 12 hand crews, and about 10 individual engines.

Colby Fire

Colby Fire, KTLA photo

****

(UPDATED at 8:53 a.m. PDT, January 16, 2014)

The Colby Fire near Glendora, California was reported at 5:40 Thursday morning and spread rapidly, pushed by strong winds. Mandatory evacuations are in effect for some residents and some schools are closed.

Colby fire

The Colby fire before 7 a.m. January 16, 2014. KTLA photo.

At 8:35 a.m. PDT Nathan Judy, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Fire Department said the fire had burned approximately 125 acres. In addition to CAL FIRE S2T air tankers, working the fire are two water-scooping air tankers and at least five helicopters, with some of them being LA County FD Blackhawk helicopters. Aircraft were ordered early, but the fire occurred before their normal duty time, so pilots and crews had to respond from their homes.

At 8:42 US Forest Service spokesperson said the fire is being fought by 500 personnel. It started near Glendale Mountain Road and the Colby Truck Trail.

A photo on Fox TV in Los Angeles showed that at least one home has burned.

Occasionally, live video streams from the fire can be seen at FOX and KTLA.

Colby Fire Photo by Jonathan Panado

Colby Fire Photo by Jonathan Panado

The wind at the nearby Henniger Flats weather station at 7:58 a.m. recorded sustained winds of 26 mph with gusts to 61 mph. The Chilao weather station had winds of 32 gusting to 49 mph. The relative humidites are in the 6 to 8 percent range.

The map shows the approximate location of the Colby Fire, at the “A” marker.

Map of Colby Fire, at the "A" marker.

Map of Colby Fire, at the “A” marker.

Red Flag warnings have been in effect for several days in southern California and other areas in the state. The map below shows the areas affected currently.

Red Flag Warning, January 16, 2014

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About Bill Gabbert

Wildland fire has been a major part of Bill Gabbert’s life for several decades. After growing up in the south, he migrated to southern California where he lived for 20 years, working as a wildland firefighter. Later he took his affinity for firefighting to Indiana and eventually the Black Hills of South Dakota where he was the Fire Management Officer for a group of seven national parks. Today he is the creator and owner of WildfireToday.com and Sagacity Wildfire Services and serves as an expert witness in wildland fire. If you are interested in wildland fire, welcome… grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up. Google+

14 thoughts on “Colby Fire, near Glendora, California

  1. Thanks Wildfire Today for the almost real time coverage. As I monitored this site watched on a L.A. television station. Still no Federal air tankers on duty? This was on the Angeles N.F. Thanks again.

  2. Looks like a road and either a fuel break/road are keeping the fire in one area containment might be possible if the winds do not increase or shift.

  3. Just out of curiosity, and since I have only been in the game for a handful of years…..
    What is the history of federal air tankers being on this time of year?? I mean, since this is not typical wx, was it typical to have tankers on a CWN contract, or would contracts cover multiple years? Say in the 70s, 80s and into the 90s??

    • There are only 2 federal airtankers on. One was in Southern California (T-48) and went to the fire the other one was @ Alamogordo, NM (T-05) and responded to this incident also.
      It takes awhile to get more activated from their home bases as most the crew folks are laid off during the down time between contracts/seasons ending and starting.

  4. Bombardier markets the CL-415 ( now Bombardier 415 ) as a Super Scooper in the US. It has a 1621 capacity in two tanks. It was not designed to deliver retardant, nor replace retardant aircraft. The media does like them. After 20 years of use, apparently LA County Fire does as well.

    • I have used scoopers (specifically the CL-215) in my AO on a number of occasions and they are an awesome resource if used properly in the right area – ie somewhere with a suitable water source close by. They are not a retardant aircraft and should not be used as one, but they definitely have their place in some locations.

  5. What are the names of the CL-415 aircraft that are fighting the fire? These men that flying these aircraft are truly a huge effort in containing fires.

    • Quebec One and Two. Mr. B Mrgan stated it correctly. Without exception time is probably one of the most (if not) factors in quick containment. Just in the last two weeks Cal Fire has responded to and took action on over 150 wildland fires. The largest was less than 100 acres.

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