Winds Lash Two Fires That Threaten Dozens Of Homes Precede FONTANA, Calif.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (AP) _ Santa Ana winds fanned an arson fire and another blaze, burning nearly 6,000 acres of brush and three structures, forcing residents to flee and threatening homes and other buildings.
Up to 150 homes were ordered evacuated just before 5 a.m. today and classes at three schools were canceled as flames from one of the intense blazes continued to burn out of control and winds surged up to 60 mph, officials said. By late morning, it appeared the danger had passed as the fire skirted around the development.
″It looks like they made it,″ said Mary Steward, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry.
The larger fire, dubbed the Texas blaze, had blackened more than 5,200 acres and was just 20 percent contained early today, after having been about halfway contained the previous day, she said.
Emergency workers canvassed several blocks of Rancho Cucamonga before dawn urging residents to move to safety at a shelter set up in a community center, said Paula Pachon, spokeswoman for the town’s emergency services office.
The Texas fire erupted Wednesday morning at the mouth of Duncan Canyon, 50 miles east of Los Angeles. Forestry Cmdr. John Timmer said the fire was set, but provided no details.
Two miles away, wind fanned to life the embers of a controlled burn near Glen Helen that was thought to have been doused Tuesday, authorities said. More than 1,000 firefighters battled the two fires.
The Verdemont Boys Ranch, a juvenile detention center, some homes and a high school in the northern Rialto area were evacuated as a precaution because of the Glen Helen blaze, which covered about 675 acres and had been surrounded, or contained, late Wednesday before showing signs of flaring up, Ms. Steward said.
The Texas fire destroyed two outbuildings and a ranch house as it weaved among about 60 structures, half of them ranch homes. Property losses were estimated at more than $374,000, Ms. Steward said.
One civilian was treated for smoke inhalation, authorities said.
″The wind and the low humidity are the primary causes for the fire to be spreading so quickly,″ Timmer said.
The other blaze erupted in an area where authorities intentionally burned overgrown brush the day before, said forestry spokeswoman LoVae Pray-Martines.
Fred Curtis, 73, said a firebreak he cut last spring was all that saved his house from flames that leapt about as he rushed to put out hotspots.
A quarter-mile away, a chimney and smoldering posts were all that remained of another ranch house. A gutted pickup truck stood in the driveway. Nearby was a portable swimming pool filled with ashes 3 feet deep.
Flames licked within a few feet of Dave Landmesser’s chicken ranch, but a sprinkler system for keeping the birds cool stopped the flames.
″It works good for cooling chickens and it worked good for putting out a fire,″ he said after finding only five of his 175,000 birds killed by smoke inhalation.
Marcia Nave, who lives in the hillsabove Fontana, said she loaded her van with jewelry, photographs and heirloom guns but waited until the last minute to leave.
″We had to drive through flames. I was afraid of catching the van on fire,″ Ms. Nave said as tears formed in her eyes. ″I don’t know what has happened to my house.″
Interstate 15, the main link between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, was closed temporarily when flames leaped across it Wednesday.
The National Weather Service predicted northeast winds through today because of the Santa Ana, a condition in which air flows from high pressure over the Great Basin of Nevada toward low pressure off the California coast.
Elsewhere in the West, more than 1,800 firefighters at Yellowstone National Park concentrated their efforts on hot spots. Though warmer weather was forecast, recent snow and rain should keep the flames down, officials said.
To prevent erosion, rehabilitation crews began filling in the fire lines dug this summer as flames scorched half of the 2.2-million-acre park.