Nearly 100 homes destroyed by Blue Cut fire
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Nearly 100 homes and hundreds of other buildings have been destroyed by the raging Blue Cut fire in the Cajon Pass, according to fire investigators.
San Bernardino County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig released estimates Friday stating 96 homes and 213 outbuildings have been destroyed by the fire that has burned 37,000 acres. Fire officials have not released exactly where the structures were located.
Of all of the cities impacted by the fire, small and big, Wrightwood has the highest housing density.
Signs of progress and containment of the Blue Cut fire were evident Thursday afternoon, the Los Angeles Times reported. Mandatory evacuations were lifted in several communities, and Caltrans reopened the 15 Freeway, which is a key trucking and commuter route that runs from San Diego, through the Inland Empire and across the Mojave Desert into Nevada.
The area of the massive blaze, called the Blue Cut Fire, is about 70 miles east of Los Angeles. Weather conditions and the dryness of the brush have made the fire unpredictable.
“In my 40 years of fighting fire I have never seen a fire behavior so extreme as it was yesterday,” Mike Wakoski, a commander with the incident team, told reporters.
Michael Eberle, a resident of the affected area, said his family packed everything they needed to survive outside of the house as well as a folder of important papers in preparation for their evacuation.
Most of the family photos are digitally stored so their main priority now is to get the family pets to safety.
They will be heading north to Phelan, California, and plan to stay with family there unless the winds shift and force evacuations there as well.
he blaze started about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in Cajon Pass, a mountain pass between the San Bernardino Mountains and San Gabriel Mountains. The size of the fire is roughly 40 square miles.
On Tuesday, six firefighters were trapped by the wildfire but found shelter at a nearby structure, according to the San Bernardino County Fire Department. Two suffered minor injuries but later returned to the fire line.
The fire quickly scorched up the dry hills as winds carried the embers. It fed on the thick, parched brush, and engulfed an unknown number of homes and structures, according to fire officials.
One resident told CNN affiliate KABC-TV in Los Angeles about the flames surrounding her house.
“We had to keep the windows up because we couldn’t breathe. The smoke was so thick, and as soon as the smoke cleared, we could see that everything was gone,” said Crystal Armstrong, who lost her home.
Firefighters implored residents to evacuate, saying that refusing to do so puts lives at risk.
Aerial views showed the mountains covered in plumes of smoke.
Drought-stricken California has been hit with waves of wildfires this summer, fueled by dry conditions, heat and dead brush.