RANCHO CUCAMONGA (CBSLA.com) — Crews Wednesday were battling an approximately 1,000-acre brush fire in the San Bernardino National Forest that has damaged at least one home.
The Etiwanda Fire was reported around 8:08 a.m. in Etiwanda Canyon, just north of Rancho Cucamonga, the U.S. Forest Service said.
Heavy winds continued to fan flames late into the evening, with fire officials reluctant to release containment estimates after gusts reached 60 mph and the area was placed under a red flag warning.
The brusher was also being fueled by unseasonably warm temperatures and dry vegetation.
USFS said Wednesday night one home sustained minor exterior damage. Two firefighters sustained minor injuries, according to the agency.
The fire is under unified command between USFS, CAL Fire, Rancho Cucamonga Fire Protection District and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Approximately 700 personnel were on scene, including 30 engines and 18 crews, according to officials.
KNX 1070’s Claudia Peschiutta reported earlier Wednesday authorities were concerned the flames could take a turn for the worse if the wind gusts continue.
“The big challenge on these fires is the wind and the unpredictability, and with winds like this we can’t put up aircrafts. It’s just too dangerous. So we try and figure out where it’s going to end up and put our resources there,” Bob Poole of the USFS said.
Approximately 1,650 homes were evacuated after authorities issued mandatory orders for all areas north of Wilson from Etiwanda Avenue and west to the wash. Mandatory evacuation orders were lifted at approximate 5:30 p.m.
Voluntary evacuations were in place for the areas east of Haven Avenue to Carnelian Street and north of Hillside Road.
An evacuation center for residents and animals was set up at Central Park on Base Line Road and Milliken Avenue in Rancho Cucamonga. Animals could also be taken to the Devore Animal Shelter, 19777 Shelter Way in San Bernardino. For livestock assistance, officials say to contact Animal Field Division (909)466-7387×1.
Banyan Elementary, Caryn Elementary, Golden Elementary, Day Creek Intermediate, Los Osos High School, Alta Loma High School, Rancho Cucamonga High School, Etiwanda High School and Chaffey College were expected to remain closed Thursday following evacuations.
Residents weren’t taking chances after evacuation orders were issued.
“I have three dogs and my bird in my car. I’m probably going to leave in a couple of minutes. I just wanted to see if the flames were going towards my house,” Debbie Ulrey told KCAL9’s Jeff Nguyen as she watched a field behind her Rancho Cucamonga home burn.
Up the street, Kim and Jeanine McClendon filled the trunks of their cars.
“We mostly packed all of the things we needed. Change of clothes, our deed, our pink slips, and things like that,” Kim McClendon said.
A few blocks away, Patrick Erbach had his friend help him move his boat – which could pose a hazard.
“It has a cover on it. I don’t want embers coming over and catching on fire and obviously gas blowing up my house,” Erbach said.
But some of his neighbors stuck around with water hoses.
Jason Burke kept watch of the fire’s movement despite being told by police and fire crews to leave.
“If no one’s watching this, there’s no way to tell the trucks how to get here and when. And so that’s why we’re here. We’re all working here as a neighborhood,” Burke said.
Road closures remain in effect for Etiwanda Avenue between Banyan Street and the northern city limit and Day Creek Boulevard between Banyan Street and the northern city limit.