New round of evacuations as Calif. wildfire creeps closer

Eds: UPDATES with more evacuation orders; minor edits. AP Video.

AP Photo CADS103, CADS102, CADS101, CADS107, CADS109, CADS106, CADS108

SIERRA MADRE, Calif. (AP) -- A wildfire that broke out in a popular hiking area blackened the steep slopes of foothills outside Los Angeles and led to evacuation orders for residents of about 550 homes, authorities said Sunday.

Hundreds of people around Sierra Madre were told to flee Saturday night and Sunday as the wildfire continued to burn through dense brush, said Elisa Weaver of the Arcadia Fire Department.

Sierra Madre is about 15 miles northeast of Los Angeles and just east of Pasadena.

No homes were damaged, though a small outbuilding was destroyed, Weaver said.

More than 400 firefighters were attacking the 350-acre fire, aided by two helicopters with two water-dropping air tankers on the way. The fire was little contained and was expected to burn for another two or three days.

"This is pretty serious," Weaver said. "Some of these areas have not burned in over 40 years."

The cause of the blaze remained under investigation. It was first reported Saturday afternoon in a wooded area a few miles northeast of Pasadena. It was windy at the time and unseasonably hot, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees.

The flames also brought the evacuation of a Boy Scout camp Saturday and left about 100 hikers stranded in a parking lot near Chantry Flats. Most of the Scouts had already left the camp by the time the evacuation was ordered, Weaver said, and no injuries were reported.

Firefighters originally had hoped to have the blaze contained Sunday, but gusting winds late Saturday night kept the fire burning out of control and creeping toward nearby homes. The evacuation orders came shortly before 11 p.m. Two shelters have been set up for evacuees.

Flames outlined steep ridges about a mile above Sierra Madre, a San Gabriel Mountains foothill community of about 11,000 popular with artists.