Crews battling a smoky wildfire in the foothills east of Los Angeles are bracing for the return of gusty winds that initially pushed the fire toward homes, and announced the fire was 53 percent contained Thursday evening. Mandatory evacuation orders for 1,650 once-endangered homes were canceled Wednesday evening. Officials ordered nine schools near the blaze above Rancho Cucamonga to remain closed Thursday. Temperatures in the area are expected to top 100 degrees.
- 6:25 p.m. Fire 53 percent contained, schools to re-open
- 1:55 p.m. Containment, acres burned hold steady
- 10:14 a.m. Aircraft remain grounded due to wind; no water or fire retardant drops
- 8:36 a.m. Forest Service: Etiwanda Fire's cause remains under investigation
- 7:53 a.m. Authorities: Fire did not grow overnight; hope calmer winds mean helicopters can go up
- 7:05 a.m. Fire 10 percent contained so far
- 6:46 a.m. 9 schools still closed
- 5:59 a.m. Etiwanda Fire burns 1,000 acres on first day
The Etiwanda fire is at 53 percent containment and has burned 1,627 acres, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The cause is still under investigation.
Nearly one-thousand firefighters are on the scene, along with 55 engines, and 4 bulldozers.
The Etiwanda School District tweeted that schools will be open Friday:
A fresh blast of strong winds has hit the wildfire in the foothills east of Los Angeles but so far it's not spreading the blaze.
The U.S. Forest Service says the fire remains within the previous burn area despite winds that have reached 60 mph today. However, that's strong enough to force the grounding of helicopters and planes that were being used to fight the fire. It's also prevented an accurate mapping of the blaze that has charred at least 1,000 acres since it broke out yesterday in San Bernardino National Forest.
The fire is 10 percent contained.
The fire danger prompted officials to keep nine schools in nearby Rancho Cucamonga closed for a second day. Residents have been allowed to return home after evacuations but are being warned to be ready to leave again.
Some 700 firefighters with 55 fire engines and four bulldozers are building containment lines around the west edge of the blaze, nearest the homes.
Thursday, the battle against the fire is all about the wind. There’s no fire retardant or water being dropped from the air thanks to those winds.
Wednesday saw huge gusts up to 100 mph, but Thursday still has sustained winds from 30-50 mph keeping planes grounded. Until firefighters can get those planes up, they won’t be able to get to the fire's hot spots.
Thursday has seen gusts up to 60 mph, including nearly blowing over a firefighter portable toilet.
The air quality in the region has improved from Wednesday because less is burning, though that can change with increased winds. The air quality is moderate, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
Overnight, firefighters cleared a lot of brush around the fire. They’ve been able to keep it well contained as they spend a lot of time clearing brush along the fire's edges.
Firefighters have lots of fire trucks stationed in northern Rancho Cucamonga.
— Frank Stoltze with KPCC staff
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, according to the U.S. Forest Service's Chon Bribiescas.
"We don't have any investigation as to whether it was human-caused," said Bribiescas. "We don't necessarily go in and treating something as one way or another. We go in there with an open mind to investigate a fire. We don't try to preload what we are wanting to find."
Bribiescas said they'll gather information and make a determination once all the evidence is gathered.
Crews on the fire lines include California state prisoners.
So-called "hotshot crews" from New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Oregon are also on the lines above Rancho Cucamonga helping to fight the flames.
— Monica Luhar with Frank Stoltze
Authorities say a 1,000-acre wildfire near Rancho Cucamonga in the foothills east of Los Angeles did not grow overnight and is now 10 percent contained, according to the Associated Press.
Officials hope calmer winds will allow firefighting helicopters to take to the air, but aircraft remain grounded because of 30 to 50 mph sustained winds, with gusts going higher.
"Wind remains our biggest concern," Incident Commander Norm Walker tells KPCC.
U.S. Forest Service officials say crews building containment lines around the blaze Thursday are focusing on the fire's west edge, where structure protection is in place, according to the AP.
Despite mandatory evacuation orders being canceled, residents are urged to prepare to leave at a moment's notice, according to the AP.
There were 700 firefighters on the scene Thursday morning.
— Frank Stoltze with the Associated Press
Firefighters have achieved 10 percent containment, according to Cal Fire. The acreage burned reported by Cal Fire remains the same — 1,000 acres.
According to Cal Fire, structures remain threatened. One structure was damaged Wednesday. Two firefighters have received minor injuries so far.
Voluntary evacuations remain in place for residents north of Hillside Road between Haven Avenue and Milliken Avenue, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Nine schools are scheduled to remain closed Thursday, NBC L.A. reports. Here are the closures.
Etiwanda School District:
- Caryn Elementary
- Golden Elementary
- Day Creek Intermediate
Students in the Etiwanda School District will not report to school, with before and after school childcare also closed, according to NBC L.A. All other Etiwanda School District schools are set to operate on a normal schedule.
Alta Loma School District:
- Banyan Elementary
Chaffey Joint Union High School District:
- Los Osos High School
- Etiwanda High School
- Rancho Cucamonga High School
- Alta Loma High School
All other Chaffey Joint Union High School District schools will remain open, according to NBC L.A.
The Chaffey College Rancho Cucamonga Campus will also remain closed Thursday, with day and evening classes and events canceled.
— KPCC staff
The fire swept through brush in the foothills north of Rancho Cucomonga Wednesday, powered by hot temperatures and high winds of up to 80 miles an hour. As it spread, flames singed at least one building and sent San Bernardino sheriff's deputies scrambling to evacuate about 1,650 homes in the area.
Several schools, including Los Osos High School, Caryn Elementary School, Day Creek Intermediate School and Chafee College, were also evacuated.
By the evening, fire officials had called off mandatory evacuations and reopened roads to residents. Voluntary evacuations were still in effect for areas north of Hillside Avenue and between Haven and Milliken avenues.
Over 700 fire personnel were called in to help battle the blaze by Wednesday night.
For most of the day, firefighting planes and helicopters were grounded due to high winds, U.S. Forest Service told KPCC, leaving crews and residents in the area to do what they could to dampen the fire's spread.
Alan Tibbits, resident of the Alta Loma neighborhood and owner of the Rancho De Philo Winery, spent Wednesday preparing to flee, and working to secure his home.
"The fire crews did an incredible job along the bottom of the mountain and they need to have the area cleared out of cars so that they can be effective," Tibbits told KPCC.
"We've spent a couple of hours getting things put into a few boxes so that if we had to leave in a hurry, we could, but I've got two laborers working outside in the vineyard area," Tibbits said. "They're picking up all the loose combustible material. These are just precautions that anybody who's lived in Southern California all their life knows about.”
Southland air quality officials have issued a smoke advisory for a wide area around the fire, while air quality has reached unhealthy levels.
“The high winds have pushed the smoke from the Etiwanda Fire across several miles,” Sam Atwood, spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, told KPCC.
Normally, smoke would take a couple of days to disperse, according to Atwood. “But with this high wind situation, we are seeing the smoke impact a wide area over just a couple of hours," Atwood said.
Communities affected by unhealthy air quality include Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, Ontario, Chino, Chino Hills, Riverside, Norco, Corona, Pomona, Diamond Bar, Walnut, San Dimas, La Verne and Claremont.
— KPCC staff