Southern California Wildfire Surges, Threatens Thousands of Homes

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
August 9, 2016 Updated: May 4, 2018

CRESTLINE, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California wildfire has surged to nearly 11 square miles and put thousands of homes in potential peril.

Firefighters aided by 16 aircraft battled flames on the northern side of the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles on Tuesday.

The fire, which erupted for an unknown reason Sunday, was just 6 percent contained.

A jet tanker drops retardant on a wildfire along Highway 173 in Hesperia, Calif. on Aug. 8. (James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP)
A jet tanker drops retardant on a wildfire along Highway 173 in Hesperia, Calif. on Aug. 8. (James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP)

People in nearly 400 homes were ordered to evacuate, authorities said. Residents of about 5,000 more were advised that they may want to evacuate, the San Bernardino County sheriff’s office said.

Helicopters sucked loads of water from nearby Silverwood Lake to douse flames leaping across slopes. Air tankers swooped low to paint the dry vegetation with pink fire retardant.

Across the Mojave, officials in southern Nevada issued an air quality advisory because of smoke from the fire more than 200 miles away.

A wildfire burns in late evening in Hesperia Calif. on Aug. 8. (James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP)
A wildfire burns in late evening in Hesperia Calif. on Aug. 8. (James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP)

The Clark County Department of Air Quality said the air was unhealthy for sensitive groups, including young children, senior citizens and people with respiratory problems and cardiac disease.

The Hesperia Unified School District has closed its schools as a precaution due to the fire’s northward movement. The Apple Valley Unified School District is also closed Tuesday due to poor air quality.

Like some of the state’s other fires this summer, the blaze burned near a popular recreation area. But Silverwood Lake’s waters had been closed to swimming, fishing and boating since Aug. 4 because of an algae bloom.

Mike Callaway, of the San Bernardino County Fire Department, attacks burning brush along Highway 173 while battling a wildfire in Hesperia, Calif on Aug. 8. (James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP)
Mike Callaway, of the San Bernardino County Fire Department, attacks burning brush along Highway 173 while battling a wildfire in Hesperia, Calif on Aug. 8. (James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP)

On the central coast, meanwhile, California’s biggest fire expanded to more than 104 square miles north of scenic Big Sur. An army of more than 5,000 firefighters and an air force of tankers and helicopters made progress, however, surrounding 50 percent of the 18-day-old blaze.

Firefighters set fires to burn out vegetation between the main body of the fire and prepared control lines.

Long-suffering residents of Palo Colorado who had been under evacuation orders since late July were finally being allowed to return. Some evacuation orders remained in place, while others were reduced to warnings.

Due to increased wind and flames from the spreading fire, Highway 1 was closed Monday night but reopened early Tuesday. Five state parks between San Francisco and Los Angeles remained closed.

The fire, which has destroyed 57 homes, damaged three others and led to the death of a bulldozer operator in an accident, was caused by an illegal campfire.

The Associated Press
The Associated Press