California Wildfires

Wind-Fed Flames Cause Shutdown of Stretch of State Route 71 in Chino

Crews were expected to remain on the fire lines throughout the day Thursday.

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Strong winds continued to cause big problems in the Inland Empire, especially for commuters in the Chino area where State Route 71 was closed in both directions for most of the day Thursday because the Airport Fire has burned 750 acres and is currently 10% contained.

Firefighters started evacuating the Santa Ana River bottom because of another fire in north Riverside.

Fanned by strong gusty wind, firefighters say the Wilson Fire erupted in a mulch pile at the San Bernardino/Riverside County line.

It then quickly spread into a pallet yard, sending thick black smoke into the sky and putting residents north of downtown Riverside on high alert.

The flames also threatened a homeless encampment.

Fire officials say the dangerous combination of wind and fire can lead to spotting.

"The fire in the compost pile tends to send embers and with gusts up to 30 or 40 miles an hour those embers can move up to a quarter mile," said San Bernardino County Fire Department Capt. Kyle Hauducoeur.

The strong gusts also toppled a semi truck on Interstate 15 just north of the 210.

The wind also led to the temporary closure of the Perris COVID-19 testing site, cancelling about 600 appointments on Thursday, including Elizabeth Maldonado's. She needs to be tested regularly for work.

"It's a bit rough because it's something that we need as soon as possible to know we are COVID free," she said.

It's also been rough for commuters who rely on State Route 71, which has been closed between Euclid Avenue and the 91 Freeway after the Blue Ridge Fire tore through the same area.

The Airport Fire has found more fuel to burn, which is why firefighters say always have an evacuation plan even if you think you are safe.

"Also starting to think about if the power is shut off," Hauducoeur said. "Are you going to be able to open your garage, your gate to your driveway? All of these things need to be thought about when we move into these red flags."

Fire officials are still investigating what caused the Wilson and Airport fires.

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