AZUSA (CNS) - Thousands of picnickers, hikers and backpackers scrambled to get out of the most-popular recreation area in the Angeles National Forest, as a brushfire quickly ballooned to more than 300 acres today.

The ``Tecolote Fire'' was about 100 acres when it first reported at about 2:30 p.m., and by 3 p.m. it had put up an enormous tower of smoke, visible from the Pacific Ocean and most of the Los Angeles basin.

By 5 p.m., the flames had expanded to 300-350 acres, said Inspector Cheryl Simms of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Eight helicopters and 200 firefighters were battling the fire in the initial response, forest spokesman Nathan Judy told City News Service.

Flames were zero percent contained as of 4:50 p.m., Judy told ABC7.

``It's really hot right now and we have the terrain,'' he told the network. ''It's a challenge to get up these steep slopes.''

Three Los Angeles County Fire Department strike crews and a helicopter were en route to assist in fighting the brusher, Simms said.

Rangers, police and the California Highway Patrol scrambled to evacuate the popular swimming holes, picnic grounds, trails and back-country campgrounds along the west fork and north fork of the San Gabriel River. That is north of where a fire burned from the canyon towards Glendora and Azusa earlier this year.

The brush fire does not immediately threaten any residences and law enforcement agencies in Glendora and Azusa say the blaze poses no danger to the communities.

About 20 recreational cabins had to be evacuated, Judy told ABC7.

At the mouth of the canyon, Azusa police closed state Route 39 at Encanto Park to all traffic -- including residents. CHP officers were heading north into the canyon to assist in evacuations.

Posted by Amy King