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California wildfire scorches more than 3,600 acres

By Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — A wildfire in California’s Angeles National Forest scorched more than 3,600 acres by late Sunday and forced the evacuation of campgrounds known to draw up to 12,000 visitors on Labor Day weekend.

There were no reports of injuries or property damage caused by the fire, which started about 2:15 p.m. in the San Gabriel Mountains, northeast of Los Angeles.

The fire was pushing north on steep terrain toward a wilderness area and was about 5 percent contained, said John Wagner, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. About 300 firefighters were battling the blaze with the help of air tankers and helicopters.

The fire began about 3 ½ miles east of California 39, midway between Camp Williams Resort and Burro Canyon Shooting Park, Wagner said. The cause of the fire remained under investigation.

A burned car was found in the area, but it was unclear if it was the source of the fire or was simply consumed by the flames, authorities said.

The area where the fire was burning, along the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, is a popular spot on holiday weekends for campers and hikers, particularly in summer.

The area is patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol and U.S. Forest Service, which has jurisdiction over the 640,000-acre Angeles National Forest. Hundreds of people live in trailers and cabins in the vicinity of Camp Williams Resort, which is located on the East Fork and includes a campground, mobile home park and restaurant.

Standing outside the Camp Williams Cafe, Jill Coverdale watched the small red-orange flames burning at the top of Shoemaker Canyon Road.

She was one of the few residents who stayed behind, ignoring mandatory evacuation orders as the wildfire burned along the ridge of the canyon, just yards from the Camp Williams Mobile Home Park.

“It was unreal,” Coverdale recalled. “The flames were huge, and the campground was packed with people.”

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