Wildfire in California's San Bernardino National Forest Grows to 18,000 Acres

Saturday, September 15th 2007, 10:31 pm
By: News On 6

FAWNSKIN, Calif. (AP) -- An out-of-control wildfire in the San Bernardino National Forest tore through 18,000 acres of brush and timber Saturday, forcing the evacuation of about 5,000 people from a pair of mountain communities.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for the resort community of Green Valley Lake and the Fawnskin area near Big Bear Dam, about 85 miles east of Los Angeles, said Jim Wilkins of the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

``It's just been running and gunning all day long, eating up ground,'' Wilkins said. ``It's a very aggressive fire burning through fuels that haven't been burned in 50 to 75 years.''

Winds of about 20 mph and humidity of just 10 percent were helping the blaze grow. The fire burned several outbuildings at a campground, and had crept within a half mile of homes in Fawnskin.

Evacuation centers were set up at two high schools.

Voluntary evacuations were called for Lucerne Valley south of the Pitzer Buttes area. Fire officials also evacuated several campgrounds, and some roadways in the area were closed to traffic.

About 600 firefighters were aided by water drops from helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft as they battled the blaze, which was burning in steep terrain.

The fire, which was reported Friday, was 5 percent contained Saturday afternoon. Its cause was under investigation.

Meanwhile in San Diego County, about 400 people were ordered out of homes in Whispering Pines, a subdivision of the historic town of Julian, after a 500-acre wildfire started northeast of town Saturday afternoon, county sheriff's officials said.

The fire destroyed an empty vacation home.

The top of a burning tree fell on two firefighters, who were hospitalized with moderate injuries, said Matt Streck of the California Department of Forestry.

Crews also were mopping up a fire that charred 2,170 acres in a remote mountainous area east of San Diego. The blaze in the Cleveland National Forest was 95 percent contained Saturday, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Audrey Hagen said.