Wildfire Season Being Felt Throughout California

June 23, 2015

Hot, dry California was beginning to feel the full brunt of fire season as blazes burned throughout the state, threatening hundreds of homes, although most areas dodged serious destruction.

As firefighters knocked down dozens of small brush fires from north to south, a fleet of helicopters took on what was by far the largest of the wildfires, in the San Bernardino Mountains.Wildfire

That blaze grew to 25 square miles and was 15 percent contained Saturday as it pushed east through dense, old-growth wilderness in the towering mountain range that lies between inland cities east of Los Angeles and the Mojave Desert.

Helicopters were considered the best option for attacking the fire. Winds above and near the ridge lines were too turbulent for air tankers, said Lyn Sieliet, a U.S. Forest Service fire spokeswoman.

Nearly 1,900 firefighters were working the blaze. None had been reported injured since the fire broke out for unknown reasons on Wednesday near one of the many permanent camps along state Route 38. The fire forced several hundred people to leave the camps and vacation homes.

The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for high temperatures through Sunday evening because of strong high pressure aloft. Mountain temperatures were predicted to range from 90 degrees at 6,000-foot elevations to 100 degrees at 3,000 feet. Humidity levels were low, which makes vegetation easier to burn.

About 400 buildings, including old cabins, were threatened but none was lost.

The winds pushing the fire east carried the smoke even farther, into the desert and the Coachella Valley, where air-quality levels reached unhealthy levels Friday, the South Coast Air Quality Management District said.

The fire could eventually reach the desert, Sieliet said. Ten fire engines and a bulldozer were sent to patrol the Morongo Valley and Pioneertown areas at the east end of the mountain range.

The fire was not threatening Big Bear Lake, a year-round mountain resort destination to the north of the fire.

A fast-moving fire that broke out near Santa Margarita, about 10 miles northeast of San Luis Obispo, Saturday afternoon forced the evacuation of several hundred residents, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported.

The fire scorched about 1,000 acres and burned several homes, California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention Battalion Chief Tom McEwen said. He didn’t have an exact count.

A 700-acre fire in Madera County had destroyed three structures and brought the evacuation of a handful of homes. It was 5 percent contained.

Over 500 acres have burned in the Sierra National Forest, south of Yosemite National Park, where firefighters warned the blaze fed by heavy, dry brush could double in size in the next few days. Three air tankers were brought in to douse the blaze that was started by a vehicle, according to government reports. It was 30 percent contained.

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