Unattended cooking fire sparks big brush fire

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LOS ANGELES - An unattended cooking fire caused the so-called Highway Fire that has burned 1,020 acres near the Prado Dam in the Chino Hills area, officials said Sunday.

Hours after evacuation orders were lifted and a smoke advisory went into effect, Cal Fire’s Riverside division said.   A smoke advisory is a warning that onshore winds were expected to push the smoke toward the central San Bernardino Mountains, according to the South Coat Air Quality Management District.

The fire was reported at 6:12 p.m. Saturday near the interchange of the 71 and 91 freeways, officials said. The burned area held at 300 acres overnight and residents were evacuated from some 200 homes in nearby Corona were allowed to return home Sunday morning.

By 5:30 p.m. Sunday, 1020 acres had burned and 35 percent of the fire was contained, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

“This is an example of what the drought has done to these fuel conditions. Normally, this wouldn’t burn in this type of area,” said Capt. Mike Mohler of Cal Fire.

Localized areas could reach the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” level, or higher, the agency warned. Smoke was expected to impact the southwest and northwest San Bernardino valley, portions of central San Bernardino, and the Norco and Corona areas.

People in those areas were advised to avoid vigorous outdoor and indoor activities, not use wood-burning appliances or fireplaces, run air conditioners, keep windows and doors closed; and people with heart disease, older adults and children were advised to remain indoors.

Weather had helped the firefight overnight, Mohler said.

“Humidity and the lack of wind overnight really helped out the fire crews,” he said. “We’re going to hit very hard this morning with aircraft, a lot of aerial recourses, additional ground resources.”

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