Image: A Los Angeles city fire helicopter drops water on a hot spot
Mark J. Terrill  /  AP
A Los Angeles city fire helicopter drops water on a hot spot, Wednesday, in the Angeles National Forest. The fire erupted a few miles north of the foothills community of La Canada Flintridge.
updated 8/26/2009 9:38:52 PM ET 2009-08-27T01:38:52

A new fire has erupted in the Angeles National Forest to the west of a blaze that has been burning on 750 acres northeast of Los Angeles for about 24 hours.

The new fire erupted Wednesday afternoon a few miles north of the foothills community of La Canada Flintridge. The U.S. Forest Service says it has spread over about 10 acres.

The larger fire in a canyon above the city of Azusa is only about 10 percent contained. Smoke from that fire has spread throughout much of greater Los Angeles, triggering health advisories, but the flames were burning away from suburbs on the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and no homes had been lost.

Stoked by the arrival of high temperatures and extremely dry air after weeks of unusually mild summer weather, the Morris Fire in Angeles National Forest produced a pungent white haze that spread through the Los Angeles Basin and east into San Bernardino County.

"It's pretty bad, the smoke," said Natacha Cuvelier, a 20-year-old student at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. "Once I stepped out of the door, I could smell it."

The air was considered unhealthy in many areas and regional officials urged people to avoid strenuous activities, indoor or out.

Schools were advised to suspend physical education and sports, said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles County's director of public health.

The smoke lingered for lack of a sea breeze, said Sam Atwood, spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

"Sometimes when we have these fires that will last for several days, the smoke can kind of build and get sloshed back and forth, so to speak. With each successive day, the extent of the smoke will get bigger and bigger," he said.

Dry, hot conditions
The fire, which erupted Tuesday near Morris Dam in San Gabriel Canyon, was 10 percent contained as temperatures headed up to triple digits, said forest dispatcher Chris Rush.

"The fire is pretty much doing whatever it wants to do. It's burning freely," said Capt. Jim Wilkins, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.

Eight air tankers and nine helicopters dropped water and retardant as hundreds of firefighters struggled to contain flames that leapfrogged among steep, rocky ridges where the brush had not burned for at least 25 years and was bone-dry.

"Somebody made a comment at the briefing this morning that some of the brush is dead, it just doesn't know it yet," Wilkins said.

No injuries were reported and no homes were in immediate danger, authorities said. However, on Wednesday afternoon a mandatory evacuation was ordered for Camp Williams, a recreational vehicle campsite and resort on a fork of the San Gabriel River. 

Other campgrounds remained closed, a day after picnickers and campers were forced to flee and 18 Boy Scouts had to be flown out of the area.

Investigators believe the fire was caused by a person, but it was unclear whether it was accidental or deliberate, Rush said.

Fire warning
Mountain highs will run up to 105 degrees through Friday, said meteorologist David Sweet of the National Weather Service.

The weather service issued a fire danger warning for mountain areas stretching from Los Angeles County northwestward through Santa Barbara and Ventura counties but the forecast did not call for any strong Santa Ana winds that typically stoke the worst Southern California wildfires.

Forecasters said a strong high-pressure system was expected to build over the Southwest through Friday as onshore flow of moist air from the Pacific weakened. That was expected to result in continued warming and drying. Single-digit humidity levels were already being observed in mountain areas.

For weeks this summer, low clouds and fog hung close to the Southern California coast, and the moist marine layer often pushed well inland overnight.

The Angeles National Forest sprawls across about 1,000 square miles of chaparral, pine and fir in towering mountains and rugged canyons north and northeast of Los Angeles.

It is a major recreation area for the metropolitan region, drawing millions of hikers, mountain bikers, picnickers and campers.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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