California wildfire ignited by welders' sparks nearly contained day after blaze threatened homes

Tuesday, November 7th 2006, 10:31 am
By: News On 6

RIALTO, Calif. (AP) _ Firefighters hoped to contain a wind-blown wildfire Tuesday that had threatened hundreds of homes after being ignited by welders' sparks and melted metal falling in the dry vegetation.

Wind gusts up to 50 mph turned Monday's small brush fire into a 640-acre blaze on the edge of Rialto, 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

The fire threatened about 100 homes, and its smoke forced the evacuation of two schools, but firefighters had it corralled enough to call off firefighting aircraft within a few hours, said San Bernardino County Battalion Chief Tracy Carlton.

There were some losses, including a lumberyard in an industrial park, but ``we did save the surrounding residences and kept the fire from proceeding further south,'' Carlton said. No injuries were reported, but the damage was estimated at $1 million.

Officials said the fire started near construction workers who were doing welding work along Interstate 15, the main route from Southern California to Las Vegas.

The fire was at the foot of notoriously windy Cajon Pass near the junction of Interstates 215 and 15.