RANCHO CUCAMONGA (CBSLA.com) — The more than 1,600-acre brush fire in the San Bernardino National Forest was 57 percent contained Thursday evening, officials said.
The Etiwanda Fire was first reported around 8:08 a.m. Wednesday in Etiwanda Canyon, just north of Rancho Cucamonga, the U.S. Forest Service said.
The brusher was fueled by strong winds with gusts ranging between 60 and 80 mph, unseasonably warm temperatures and dry vegetation. One wind gust was measured at 101 mph.
According to officials, winds decreased overnight, allowing firefighters to concentrate on gaining control of the fire.
“During the night, we were able to make quite a bit of progress . . . as conditions improved. We’ve put bulldozers and hand crews in for perimeter control,” said Battalion Chief Jim Curatallo.
The fire was under unified command by USFS, CAL FIRE, Rancho Cucamonga Fire Protection District and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Approximately 750 personnel were on scene Thursday, including 55 engines, 19 crews and four dozers, according to USFS.
As of late Wednesday, one home sustained minor exterior damage. Two firefighters sustained minor injuries, according to the USFS.
Approximately 1,650 homes were evacuated Wednesday 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 approximately 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Voluntary evacuations remained in effect for residents north of Hillside Road between Haven Avenue and Milliken Avenue. An evacuation center for residents and animals was set up at Central Park on Base Line Road and Milliken Avenue in Rancho Cucamonga.
Small animals can also be taken directly to Animal Center at 11780 Arrow Route in Rancho Cucamonga. For livestock assistance, residents should contact Animal Services Field Division at (909)466-7387 x1.
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.
All outdoor sports fields were closed due to poor air quality.
Some Rancho Cucamonga residents meanwhile returned home Thursday to survey the damage left behind from the strong winds and thick smoke.
“I came home [and] saw these trees falling. [You] couldn’t stand outside because of the wind,” Priya Yallapantula told KCAL9’s Adrianna Weingold.
Residents like David Coleman said the smoke was so thick, soot and ash made it inside his home.
“I looked and the inside seals are just covered in black soot that blew through the windows during the high winds and smoke that was coming over the house,” Coleman said.
Hand crews were combing every inch of the burn zone looking for hot spots underneath the surface Thursday evening.
“Even without the winds if you just put water on everything it will all stay on the surface and there’s stuff burning underneath the ground, roots, stump holes, stuff like that is still burning,” Louis Delarosa, Engine Captain of Los Padres National Forest, said.
Ground crews continue to take the lead after winds made it impossible for air attacks. Winds died down enough for spotter planes to get a look above the fire on Thursday. USFS officials said so far there had been no major hot spots or flare-ups.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.