A wildfire near Rancho Cucamonga that forced the evacuation of about 1,600 foothill homes is now only smoldering, and crews expect to make significant progress as winds ease.
Update 6:40 p.m. US Forest service is "cautiously optimistic"
"We're feeling cautiously optimistic about progress that’s been made on this fire," Carol Underhill of the US Forest Service told KPCC.
Overnight, firefighters will look at strengthening existing fire line and creating new fire line on the north side of the fire, which will take a little more time due to the steep and rugged terrain.
"Temperatures will go down, humidity goes up at night so they’re able to do good work at night," said Underhill.
The US Forest Service is also optimistic about the upcoming weekend's weather since temperatures will be dropping and they don’t anticipate any Santa Ana wind events.
-- KPCC's Bianca Ramirez
Update 6:02 p.m. 67 percent containment
The Etiwanda fire is 67 percent contained, according to a tweet from the US Forest Service's San Bernardino National Forest division:
-- KPCC staff
Update 3:38 p.m. Winds have shifted
The Etiwanda fire has burned 2,190 acres and remains 53 percent contained, Carol Underhill of the US Forest Service told KPCC.
“The northern part of the fire is where they are concentrating efforts today,” said Underhill, who noted that that includes some steep rocky terrain.
Hot conditions have continued as well as low humidity—15 percent.
Winds have diminished to five to 15 miles per hour and are blowing in the opposite direction but Underhill said they anticipated the wind shift and positioned resources to fight the fire with that in mind.
“Because of the diminished winds we’ve been able to get four water-dropping helicopters assisting firefighters today,” said Underhill.
Schools and roads are open and no evacuations are in effect but the North Etiwanda Preserve—a popular hiking spot—is closed.
-- KPCC's Rob Strauss
Fire officials say the fire is 53 percent contained, with no active flames. With aircraft now able to fly and map the area, officials say that 2,190 acres have burned, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The fire now is burning into the foothills, out of the flats.
Firefighters have been making good progress on fire lines, the U.S. Forest Service's Carol Underhill tells KPCC.
"There is a feeling of cautious optimism at this point that we'll have the fire wrapped up soon, but we don't want to be too complacent either," Underhill said. "The perimeter of the Etiwanda Fire has been holding successfully — the winds have died down, which has certainly helped in our efforts."
The fire didn't grow overnight, Underhill said, but they're keeping structure protections in place and keeping an eye on an expected shift in the winds. It's not expected to be as strong, but they'll be making sure there are no flare-ups, Underhill said.
Rancho Cucamonga benefited from the fire burning at first to the east rather than to the west. The eastern part of Rancho, as many there call it, is newer, and therefore subject to more strict fire regulations. You won't see any wood shake roofs, and window shutters must be non-combustible in areas that bump up against wildland, Fire Chief Mike Bell tells KPCC.
"We've seen over the years that ventilation in and out of the attic becomes an issue, because even with a tile roof, if you have openings in your attic spaces, those embers will fly in there and cause problems," Bell said. "So now you've got mesh material that doesn't permit the embers to come into the attic spaces."
Bell recalls the Grand Prix fire a dozen years ago that did hit western Rancho, where older homes are closer to each other — and abut wildland. Fourteen homes burned.
"We got into the west side of town and it was a house-to-house battle," Bell said.
Residents can reduce their risk by removing anything combustible in the backyard, Bell says: chair cushions, ornamental vegetation that's dry and old leaves clogging rain gutters.
"That's the stuff that catches fire, and then it brings the fire to the house," Bell said.
The advice applies to any high-fire-area-adjacent wildland, Bell said.
Winds overnight were between 10 and 20 miles per hour, according to Underhill. Humidity will be up, but still low, Underhill said, with temperatures expected to be in the 90s.
All schools are back in session, Underhill said.
No homes have burned in the area east of Los Angeles, and there are no mandatory evacuations, according to the AP.
The blaze began Wednesday morning and quickly surged through dry grass and chaparral, according to the AP.
Winds in the area below the San Bernardino National Forest are around 15 mph, with 25-mph gusts, the AP reports — a far cry from the 70-mph gusts two days earlier.
Firefighting aircraft are available to assist crews, the AP reports, after being grounded because of fierce gusts.
The National Weather Service predicts the winds will continue to ease and become variable, according to the AP.
This story has been updated.