Air Quality Unhealthy For all Residents Near Colby Fire

Evacuations ordered for homes north of Sierra Madre Boulevard. Emergency shelters are set up at Finkbiner Park, Goddard Middle School and Glendora High School.

Fire burns above Glendora Thursday. Photo credit: Dirk Hopstein
Fire burns above Glendora Thursday. Photo credit: Dirk Hopstein

A fire has scorched 1,700 acres Thursday morning in the Angeles National Forest north of Glendora, prompting mandatory evacuations of 3,700 people from 870 homes and school closures, authorities said. 

The South Coast Air Quality District has issued a smoke advisory and is urging residents to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities in the San Gabriel Valley and Pomona. Paper and surgical masks will not be sufficient enough to protect residents from the pollution. Residents who can see or smell the smoke are advised to stay indoors, close windows and avoid rigorous exercise. 

The fire is currently 30 percent contained. Five single-family homes have been destroyed and 17 additional buildings, including homes, have been damaged. A civilian and two firefighters have suffered minor injuries. The fire, being referred to as The Colby Fire, was reported shortly before 6 a.m. near San Gabriel Canyon Road, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. At least 700 firefighters were on the scene, aided by eight air tankers and seven helicopters.


Shortly after 7 a.m., evacuations were ordered for an area north of Sierra Madre Boulevard, from Grand Avenue to Glendora Mountain Road, according to the Glendora Police Department. About an hour later, the western boundary of the evacuation area was expanded to Azusa Avenue in Azusa, said Azusa Police Department Officials. 

Evacuation centers are located at:

  • Finkbiner Park, near Foothill Boulevard and Grand Avenue in Glendora. 
  • Glendora High School Event Center set up by the Red Cross.
  • Duarte Community Center at 1600 Huntington Dr. (for Duarte residents.)

Though residents are anxious to return home, Deputy Chief John Tripp of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said the area will remain unsafe for at least the rest of the day. Embers continue to endanger the area. Residents evacuated between Glendora Mountain Road and Yucca Ridge will be able to return to their homes at 6 p.m. Thursday. 

Goddard Middle School at 859 E. Sierra Madre Ave. was closed and will serve as the unified command post, according to the Glendora Unified School District. 

Other schools closed include: 

  • Cullen Elementary 
  • La Fetra Elementary
  • Sellers Middle School
  • St. Lucy's Priory High School. 
  • Citrus College in Glendora. 
All schools, with the exception of St. Lucy's Priory who has not confirmed, will be reopened Friday. 

Evacuated pets can be brought to the Pasadena Humane Society at 361 S. Raymond Ave., according to the humane society. Azusa residents may drop off their pets at Memorial Park located at 320 N. Orange Ave. A horse shelter is available at the Pomona Fairplex. 

Road Closures

Glendora Mountain Road and Highway 39 was closed. Roads were also closed north of Sierra Madre Avenue from Glendora Mountain Road to Yucca Ridge. Traffic was slowing on the westbound Foothill (210) Freeway, according to the California Highway Patrol. Covina Police, Azusa Police and Sierra Madre Police are assisting Glendora Police and fire officials at the scene.

Alleged Origin of the Fire

Glendora Police Chief Tim Staab says three people detained near the fire's point of origin have been booked on suspicion of recklessly starting a fire. The men have been identified as Clifford Eugene Henry Jr., 22, of Glendora, Jonathan Carl Jarrell, 23, of Irwindale and Steven Robert Aguirre, 21. They reportedly tossed papers into a campfire not designated a camp area in the hills when a breeze kicked up and ignited the fire. 

"They are being cooperative,'' Staab said. "I've been told by
detectives that one has made an admission to our detectives and has admitted to setting the fire."

Henry, Jarrell and Aguirre were described as apologetic and are being held at Glendora city jail on $50,000 bail. They are due in court in West Covina on Tuesday. 

Patch will continue to update this story as information becomes available.

City News Service and Erika Maldonado contributed to this report. 

Mark G January 16, 2014 at 10:39 AM
Live scanner feed of evacuations, etc... http://www.broadcastify.com/listen/feed/16006
Heather Renee Griffith January 16, 2014 at 10:53 AM
I find it insane that only Goddard is closed, and only because of its need as a command center and shelter for evacuated people. Air quality is horrible but hey we'll keep them inside. Except GHS that has no cafeteria. So at lunch they will be, but closed schools mean no money.
Concerned Parent January 16, 2014 at 11:56 AM
Feel sorry for poor home owners. Good luck and hope the city and state will help them.
Dirk Hopstein January 16, 2014 at 12:01 PM
I posted some early pics of the fire in the Town Square section. It spread so fast.
Ross S. Heckmann January 16, 2014 at 12:25 PM
Thanks for reporting on this story.
carol s January 16, 2014 at 12:48 PM
Juice It Up! is going around to Evacuation Centers and handing out free smoothies to the firefighters and evacuees. With the heat, smoke and fire today, hopefully an ice cold smoothie will cool them down! #thanksjuiceitup #juiceitup #glendora
Terry January 16, 2014 at 01:26 PM
GUSD should close all of its schools today. The air quality is horrible everywhere in the area, not just near the mountain base. There is no reason why we should expose children to this air.
B Henderson January 16, 2014 at 01:37 PM
Wish GUSD would just close ALL the schools! Smoke is over GHS yet they won't close. Ugh. grateful it is an early out day for son.
lisa January 16, 2014 at 04:45 PM
I went through the Altadena Fire in 1993 a large number of homes were lost in my area ...Anybody remember how that fire started ? I'm so sick of idiots using the foothills as there personal party zone and homeless refuge ... To the 3 dudes caught in Glendora I hope you enjoy date night in county jail .
daleford January 16, 2014 at 06:36 PM
this makes it clear that glendorians need to stop being so nice to the homeless. glendora has become a haven for the homeless. stop giving them money, blankets and food. this is ridiculous. they make the city look like trash already, now they are burning it down. please glendora, stop giving these bums things to keep them here. and I know people are gonna bash me for speaking my mind. but it is out of hand. 10 years ago, we had our homeless, but you knew them all. like mark in the park, some of the homeless were well known. nowadays, the homeless population has skyrocketed. and we as people with pride in our city, need to turn our shoulder to the unwanted homeless population that is destroying our city. "pride of the burned down foothills" thanks to the homeless.
Larry S January 16, 2014 at 06:46 PM
It's typical that privileged Glendorans need to find a scapegoat and find a way to intimidate and denegrate those less fortunate. The homeless are in a no win position here. The city and state doesn't want to provide homeless shelters for these people in need so where are they suppose to go? Then you are surprised when they create a fire to stay warm? Obviously, they used poor judgment but when you are homeless I assume you don't always make the best choices. You don't want to feed these people, help them find a place to stay, train them for jobs, give them jobs or give them the basics that most of us already have. It's sad how easy it is for some people to feel so superior and unsympathetic to people who obviously need our help. My hope is that people who are quick to condemn understand that not everyone has their advantages in life.
cherie January 16, 2014 at 06:56 PM
please fix the link above for citrus college.
Tina January 16, 2014 at 07:31 PM
I believe this is the third fire caused by homeless. People and wildlife displaced. Horrible. As far as the homeless if you feel they are on hard times, then have them live in your homes with you. Fires and murders enough already. Tsk Tsk. Downright shame what has happened today. Thank God for the firefighters, the brave owners, and to the police department for arresting them. Something needs to be done..............period.
lisa January 16, 2014 at 09:04 PM
Larry.S The guys that set this fire recklessly aren't what I consider the truly homeless they're stoners that never grew up ... The biggest issues with shelters Larry is they have rules I'm pretty assured that these 3 poor down trodden boys don't enjoy rules or want anyone telling them what to do ... In regards to training these 3 boys for decent jobs that would require the issue of rules ... Following a schedule ,being accountable for being on time,and having personal accountability ... Dude ! I can't control my party habits let alone the responsibility of a job ... Amazing how they claim being homeless yet they or someone had enough money to score some weed . Sorry, but I can't sympathize with stupid .
Larry S January 16, 2014 at 10:56 PM
Lisa, you have no idea what these guys are all about and neither do I. Even if they are as you describe, and that is PURE conjecture at this point, that does not mean they do not deserve to be helped to get out of self-destructive patterns. Amazing how many people with a home and a steady income can just write off a segment of society as useless or unworthy of further consideration. Ironic approach considering this is supposed to be a Christian community.
Deana Wife-of'Joey Echevarria January 16, 2014 at 11:25 PM
Where would any of us be without Grace? I am fortunate that my mistakes, some quite inane, did not lead to this kind of event. Some could have. I still needed grace. These men will face consequences. As to those who have suffered loss, community will be the thing that helps them through. If you want to be a part of that community Come see our facebook page "Glendora Fire" We will be posting real ways you can help if you care to be a part of a solution, instead of an argument.
Deana Wife-of'Joey Echevarria January 16, 2014 at 11:26 PM
daleford January 17, 2014 at 12:20 AM
Larry s..... this is supposed to be a christian community? Wtf? church and state are supposed to be separate. its your christian thinking that leads you to believe we need to help people that obviously can't even help their selves? are you nuts? yeah I got a home, and a steady income, and it isn't all that hard to do. just gotta have the willpower to get up and be a productive member of society. I do have compassion for certain circumstances, but come on Larry, your blind thinking we need to help them. all they gotta do is clean up and get a job. you telling me they can't make fries or change a tire or bag some groceries? they are not disabled. like I said before, I hope glendorians stand up to this and give a cold shoulder to the unwanted homeless people. and the shelters are so full and can't help real families because we got losers like this depleting the resources. their homelessness is their fault, not mine
Terry January 17, 2014 at 01:51 AM
The Glendora PD is very sympathetic towards the homeless population. Not saying that it is good or bad, but our police department makes it very clear that it has no problem with having transient and homeless individuals in Glendora.
lisa January 17, 2014 at 01:57 AM
Deana and Larry , First of all community will always help each other out in regards to disaster ... Generally this is when people are at their best . Frankly, I'm done with the pity parties for perpetrators of crimes. From what I gather it would be fine to drive like an idiot to the nearest E.R. because in the rush to evacuate with children and pets I leave behind my child's asthma medication ... It would be fine to put my 70 year old mother in restraints because she suffers with Alzheimer's and was forced to leave the only place she felt safe and was put into a total state of panic because she had to be evacuated because ...Dude its cold lets light a fire ,strike up the doobie,the city looks awesome from here ...Wow! The fires out of control let's book ! Victims have rights and suffer far more than the perpetrators . Do you think the people that lost their homes are enjoying just the shirt on their back and having everything they worked for destroyed ? Who will replace the old love letters,wedding pictures,and christening gowns that have been passed down through generations? Who will replace the lock of hair from my child's first hair cut? I'm supposed to have empathy for fools ? While I'm supposed to search my heart and soul for empathy ,understanding ,and forgiveness these three poor souls get clean orange jump suits ,3 squares a day ,and a bed ... I guess since they have their defense of a down trodden life I guess they've given me my excuse for not being empathetic nor understanding if they can have an excuse,I can have one too ! If Utopia could only work ... Wouldn't it be grand ?
lisa January 17, 2014 at 02:03 AM
Terry... Police are very sympathetic towards the homeless it's not about a kind nature or understanding it's called the ACLU
Larry S January 17, 2014 at 01:08 PM
My point of view is about trying to be proactive in the crises we have...not reactive. I do not expect anyone to waive consequences when someone breaks the law. But I do think if programs and services were funded and in place for mental health and homeless purposes, we would have fewer problems to deal with.....like this one. Consequences punish someone who does a wrong but it doesn't always stop them from doing it again. Rehabilitation and counseling and services CAN help. Yes, you should have empathy for fools and homeless and those who make mistakes. Only those who never make a mistake can judge others. It's not a religious conundrum, it's a human one. Again, you all make assumptions about the guilty here...typical of the Glendora mentality..."they don't live as we do, they must be worthless scum. If my life isn't perfect then someone must pay." Life doesn't work like that. We have people all around us that we have to live with...some are good; some bad. I just think that IF there are some who could be helped so they don't do destructive things, then it's worth a try. Those of you quick to judge and condemn less fortunate people have never walked in their shoes. How do you know what you'd do if you had no home? No job? no skills or the mental skills to improve yourself? If you were freezing? You have no clue. Neither do I. I've never been there. But that doesn't mean I have a right to turn my back on those people who live that life. I'm sad that some of you were raised to be so self-centered. Look beyond your own perspective and life. You have responsibility for this whole community and world. Not just your own family.
daleford January 17, 2014 at 01:28 PM
lmao at Larry s. you have good words. we all walked in their shoes. we all turned 18 at some point and when faced with leaving parents house, we made the same decisions these people should of made. I am not self centered, but I do call it like I see it. for example, you said "glendora is supposed to be a christian community." then say this is not some religious conundrum. and I do have compassion when I see a mother and her kids begging for food cause husband left them or does or something of a deserving nature. but to a couple 20 something's that made the decision to take the lower road, I have none. those three could of died in that fire, I probably would of been happier than knowing they caused all this destruction and only get a unlawful fire charge. as for me having responsibility towards homeless losers in my community, negative. no way. their parents and family couldn't steer them right, so why would I ever try????? and if they weren't the losers they were, they probably would still have THEIR OWN families to help them out. and yes rehab would work on some, but they gotta want it on their own. did we forget the homeless murders a few months back? now a fire.. really Larry, I have no more compassion for the tweaked out underground on glendora. does it make you feel that much better to hand your picket change to someone so they can get high, then start fires? come on. good job Larry, your compassion has earned your way into those Christian pearly gates. its people like you with blind compassion that is gonna keep glendora in the state its in. people need to stand up and make them feel unwanted. cause they are. Larry, I am sure your backyard is big enough for a few tents. why are you not getting off your holy horse and offering them a place to set up camp? and giving them a hot shower and meal? and hell why are you not out there reading them a bedtime story.. when you have set up camp Larry and have honestly helped these people, don't come with your help others who don't want to help their self attitude.. good day..
Larry S January 17, 2014 at 01:38 PM
I am doing something to help these people every week. I am not just proclaiming ideals, I am making an attempt to make a difference with my money and my actions. I urge others to do the same. It will make the world a better place in the long run rather than complaining about imagined boogeymen. I think we all know each others' perspectives here. I really have nothing more to offer. I feel good about what I do in my life. I hope you do too.
Mark G January 21, 2014 at 11:30 AM
I'd sure like to know if any of the three involved in the fire happened to be a part of the SIXTY TWO bus loads of transients "imported" to Glendora between Dec 17th and Jan 16th. I only found out about this after discussing the fire and recent crime wave in my neighborhood with a friend who lives near the High School. He lives right between the two shelters hosting this program and has had nothing but problems in the past few weeks. After looking in to this a bit, I was more than a little alarmed to find that the bus schedule offering pick-up points in Baldwin Park, West Covina, La Puente, and El Monte offered sixty two buses IN to Glendora, but ZERO buses out. Is anyone else connecting the dots here, or are we not supposed to bring this up? Here's the schedule --> http://esgvchomeless.org/bus.shtml


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