Mandatory Evacuations Lifted as 1,000 Acres Burn North of Rancho Cucamonga

Strong wind gusts are likely to plague the firefight throughout the day amid red flag conditions

Mandatory evacuations were lifted Wednesday night as a brush fire burned more than 1,000 acres in the mountains north of Rancho Cucamonga amid hot, dry and windy conditions.

The fire broke out in late-season Santa Ana conditions when winds were high and humidity was low. There were no injuries. The only structure that burned was a fence.

Some 1,650 homes and at least seven schools had been under a mandatory evacuation order, fire officials said. Some schools were expected to be closed Thursday, officials said.

The U.S. Forest Service said a mandatory evacuation order was lifted shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday for areas of Rancho Cucamonga, a city of 165,000 people east of Los Angeles.

But people in some northern neighborhoods are still urged to leave voluntarily if they feel threatened.

The 70-mph wind gusts that sent smoke over the area have eased and are expected to die down further Wednesday evening. But authorities say it's still too gusty for aircraft to join the firefight.

The fire broke out at 8 a.m. at the base of the San Bernardino National Forest 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles (map). Fueled by winds at up to 70 mph, the fire grew to 200 acres by noon, quadrupled in size within a few hours and had burned through 1,000 acres of brush by late afternoon.

Classes were canceled at Los Osos High School about an hour after the fire started.

The winds grounded low-flying firefighting aircraft, although they remained on standby.

"We tried early on but it was just too dusty" to safely put the craft into the sky, John Miller of the U.S. Forest Service said at an afternoon press conference.

Leo Lemelin, 67, and his family busily loaded several cars with belongings as they prepared to leave.

"We're trying to pack up everything we can into our cars from 45 years of marriage and eight grandchildren," he said.

Bryan Hayner said he was giong to stick around for a while.

"We got garden hoses," he said. "It's getting so smoky up here. We gotta get the family out."

A smoke advisory was issued for parts of western San Bernardino and Riverside counties and eastern Los Angeles County.

Air quality might be in the unhealthy range or higher because of the fire.

The fire erupted in the midst of a heat wave that sent Southern California temperatures soaring into the 90s in some areas.

Los Angeles International Airport recorded a high of 87 degrees, breaking the record for the day of 86 that was set in 1996.

At Long Beach Airport, the high of 92 broke a 1996 record by 2 degrees.

Valley areas could see triple digits. High temperatures were expected through Saturday, with humidity in the single digits.

The heat was accompanied by winds gusting to 80 or 90 mph in some mountains and valleys, prompting the National Weather Service to issue red-flag warnings of extreme weather conditions into Thursday night.

Utilities reported about 8,000 people lost power because of wind-related problems such as downed power lines.

Severe winds at Ontario International Airport also caused some flights to be diverted to Los Angeles International Airport.

A voluntary evacuation area was set up north of the 210 Freeway between Miliken and Etiwanda avenues.

An evacuation center was set up at Central Park on Baseline Road and Miliken Avenue, according to the Forest Service.

Small pets can be taken to the Animal Center at 1179- Arrow Route in Rancho Cucamonga, Central Park at 11800 Base Line in Rancho Cucamonga, or the County Animal Shelter in Devore.

Residents should call the Animal Services Field Division for livestock assistance at 909-466-7387, ext. 1.

Road Closures

The following roads were closed:

  • Etiwanda Avenue between Banyan Street and the northern city limit
  • Day Creek Boulevard between Banyan Street and the Northern C
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