SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA) — A wind-driven vegetation fire broke out in the San Bernardino National Forest early Thursday morning, scorching about 145 acres in the hills above San Bernardino and forcing dozens of residents to flee their homes.
The Old Water Fire broke out before 2 a.m. Thursday along Highway 18, near Old Waterman Canyon Road. It was at 55 percent containment as of 8 a.m. Friday. All evacuations were lifted and roads had been reopened.
At the fire’s height Thursday, mandatory evacuations had been in place for about 80 homes in north San Bernardino: near Mariposa Drive and David Way, and along Arrowhead Road.
Firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service and San Bernardino County Fire Department formed protection lines around the homes which were threatened.
A flare-up erupted around 1:30 p.m. Thursday near Fortieth Street and north David Way burned an additional 30 acres. Fortieth Street in San Bernardino was closed in the area.
Highway 18 was shut down between 40th Street in San Bernardino north to Highway 138 in Crestline. Drivers were advised to use State Route 330 as a detour. Several smaller streets in the area were also shut down. Highway 18 reopened to traffic around 6 p.m.
“I’ve gone through the Panorama Fire, and I’ve gone through the Old Fire — some of the biggest fires here in San Bernardino — and whenever an ignition point in this area, where the fire is currently at, starting, it gets very worrisome,” evacuee Brad Schrader told CBS2.
The fire was burning about 4 miles east of California State University, San Bernardino, but the campus had already announced Wednesday that it would be closed Thursday due to the high winds and possible power outages.
Several parts of the Southland Thursday are under a red flag warning and are experiencing critical fire conditions caused by gusty Santa Ana winds. The Old Water Fire was burning in dry grass and chaparral on forestland. However, the concern is that as winds pick up throughout the day, the fire could spread to nearby homes. Firefighters were already contending with gusts of up to 50 miles per hour on the ridge tops Thursday morning.
“Right now, we’re about to see a lot more Santa Ana winds, maybe within about an hour, which puts that potential for growth very large, and that’s why we’re putting as many resources on it as possible right now, to limit that exposure,” San Bernardino National Forest spokesman Zach Behrens told CBS2 just before 6:30 a.m. “And we hope to get there. And that’s why we’re sending in a lot of firefighters right now.”
About 400 firefighters were battling the blaze, with the help of a helicopter, 50 engines and a dozer.
An evacuation center was open at San Gorgonio High School. San Bernardino Animal Control was also sheltering smaller animals. A public hotline has been set up at 909-383-5688.
There is no word on what may have sparked the fire.