FOREST FALLS (CBSLA) – A 1,000-acre wildfire which erupted Friday afternoon in the San Bernardino Mountains has forced the evacuation of hundreds of people in the community of Forest Falls.
The Valley Fire was reported at around 1:42 p.m. in the area of Valley of the Falls Drive and Highway 38, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
It spread quickly, growing to 1,000 acres within about six hours and was at 5 percent Saturday afternoon.
The entire town of Forest Falls, which has about 1,000 people, was ordered to evacuate.
No structures have yet been damaged or destroyed.
Highway 38 is closed between Bryant Street in Yucaipa to Lake Williams Drive in Big Bear.
“And so the fire just started accumulating, and it just started blowing upwards towards where we’re living right now,” resident Don Franklin said.
About 500 campers and staff at Forest Homes Ministries, near where the fire sparked, were also forced to evacuate to a church in Yucaipa.
“It was safe, there wasn’t a rush, it was more precautionary than anything else,” said Gary Wingerd with Forest Home Ministries.
Triple-digit temperatures and low humidity, coupled with steep terrain is making the firefight difficult, the Forest Service said. About 500 firefighters with San Bernardino County Fire, CAL Fire and USFS are battling the blaze.
At the same time, firefighters saw their efforts hampered by thunderstorms in the area, which cause mudflows along Hwy. 38.
A flash flood warning was issued for the area about 10 minutes after the mud came through the area, U.S. Forest Service Capt. Ernesto Rubio told CBS2.
“We had thunderstorms that were coming overhead, so we were pulling everybody off the line,” said Rubio, who received a heads up from a helicopter overhead.
Workers then had to use bulldozers to clean up the mud, which was 10 to 12 feet high in places.
There were no reported injuries. The cause of the fire is under investigation. It’s unclear when residents may be allowed to return to their homes.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District has issued a smoke advisory due to the Valley Fire. Areas impacted by the advisory include Big Bear Lake, the San Bernardino Valley, Banning Pass and the central San Bernardino Mountains.
Meanwhile, crews were making great progress on the Box Fire burning in the Cajon Pass. As of Saturday, it was holding at 100 acres and was 50 percent contained.