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Wildfire burns homes near Los Angeles, forcing 2,000 to flee

Family members comforted one another as they evacuated their home in Azusa, Calif., on Thursday. A wildfire, sparked by campers who have been arrested, burned at least 1,700 acres of the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Family members comforted one another as they evacuated their home in Azusa, Calif., on Thursday. A wildfire, sparked by campers who have been arrested, burned at least 1,700 acres of the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

GLENDORA, Calif. — Nearly 2,000 residents were evacuated and at least five homes were destroyed in a wildfire that started early Thursday when three people tossed paper into a campfire in the dangerously dry and windy foothills of Southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains, authorities said.

Embers from the fire fanned by gusty Santa Ana winds quickly spread into neighborhoods below where residents were awakened in the predawn darkness and ordered to leave.

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The three suspects, all men in their 20s, were arrested on charges of recklessly starting the fire, which spread smoke across the Los Angeles basin and cast an eerie cloud all the way to the coast.

One resident suffered minor burns in the neighborhood abutting Angeles National Forest, north of the San Gabriel Valley community of Glendora, according to Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby.

The fire swept through 1,700 acres of brush, but by nightfall it was no longer advancing and was 30 percent contained.

‘‘The weather cooperated quite a bit today. We didn’t get the wind ... that we thought,’’ Los Angeles County fire Deputy Chief John Tripp said.

Authorities planned to reopen evacuated Glendora neighborhoods, allowing back some of the 2,000 people ordered to leave.

Ash rained down on the city, said Jonathan Lambert, 31, general manager of Classic Coffee.

‘‘We’re underneath a giant cloud of smoke,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s throwing quite the eerie shadow over a lot of Glendora.’’

Because of arid and windy conditions, the national forest was under ‘‘very high’’ fire danger restrictions. Officials had posted numerous signs barring campfires anywhere except in camp fire rings in designated campgrounds. US Forest Service spokeswoman L’Tanga Watson said there are no designated campgrounds where the fire began.

belowThe area, which is historically dry, has been buffeted by the Santa Ana winds.

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