Wildfire burns 300 acres of brush in southern California, 100 homes threatened

Monday, November 6th 2006, 12:59 pm
By: News On 6

RIALTO, Calif. (AP) _ A wind-driven wildfire burned 300 acres of brush Monday, torching stacks of pallets in an industrial yard, threatening as many as 100 homes and choking the sky with gray smoke.

The fire was 30 percent contained at midmorning, said San Bernardino County fire spokeswoman Tracey Martinez. More than 150 firefighters moved in with trucks on the ground and planes and helicopters flew over the blaze making water drops.

The cause was under investigation.

The fire started around 7:30 a.m. near Interstate 15 north of Rialto, said Bill Peters, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. A portion of the highway was closed.

Flames burned dangerously close to 100 homes, prompting officials to call for voluntary evacuations there.

Firefighters moved quickly to douse spot fires as erratic 30 mph winds with 40 mph gusts blew embers across the area.

``Our biggest concern are the winds,'' Martinez said.

The fire, burning just northeast of a large neighborhood, overran the industrial pallet yard and was near a golf course.

The Sierra Lakes Golf Club remained open, said manager Bob Farnham. ``We might evacuate pretty quick, though,'' he said.

Rialto is about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. The fire was burning near the junction of interstates 215 and 15, the main road from Southern California to Las Vegas.

The blaze at the foot of the Cajon Pass was driven by Santa Anas, the fierce winds that plague the region each fall.

Five U.S. Forest Service firefighters died last month when a wind-driven, arson-caused fire overtook them in the rural community of Twin Pines in neighboring Riverside County.

That fire destroyed 34 homes and burned 40,200 acres northwest of Palm Springs.