Lake Fire near Big Bear grows to 11,000 acres (updated)

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Fueled by driving winds and steep terrain, the Lake Fire in San Bernardino County exploded in size Friday reaching the size of 11,000 acres overnight Friday. Hundreds of people, among them campers and children, were evacuated from parts of the San Bernardino National Forest. A vegetation fire in the community of Thermal near Indio had burned 60 acres, destroying three homes and injuring one firefighter.


7:50 a.m.: Lake Fire continues to spread

A fire in the San Bernardino National Forest continued to rage Friday, as firefighters battle the blaze that grew to 11,000 overnight. About 400 people, among them children and campers, had to be evacuated from the area, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.

According to AP, authorities airlifted a 74-year-old man to safety near the San Gorgonio Wilderness where he was hiking.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District says the air conditions may become "unhealthy," as winds push smoke from the fire southeast towards the Mojave Desert.

— KPCC staff

7:20 p.m.: Grapefruit Fire ignites near in Thermal

A 60-acre fire erupted in a palm grove in the desert town of Thermal, 135 miles southeast of Los Angeles. By late afternoon, it had burned three homes and several outbuildings, state fire officials reported.

About an hour's drive northwest, a wildfire burning since Wednesday exploded in size in a remote area of San Bernardino National Forest.

About 400 people, including residents of about two dozen homes and several hundred campers, many of them children, had been evacuated as the fire burned south of Big Bear Lake, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.

No buildings were damaged as flames consumed heavy brush and 30-foot pines along mountain slopes at 6,000 feet.

On Thursday, authorities airlifted a 74-year-old man to safety after the fire advanced to within a quarter-mile of a dry lake in the San Gorgonio Wilderness where he was hiking. The man told authorities he was on a 3-day backpacking trip that began in the area where the fire began.

Further south, crews slowed the spread of a wildfire near a casino in northern San Diego County that had forced the evacuation of about seven homes Wednesday.

The fire on the Barona Indian Reservation burned about 170 acres of dry brush and was 68 percent contained. No homes were threatened.

Other fires being fought included a 100-acre blaze in Yuba County in the Sierra Nevada foothills north of Sacramento. More than a dozen homes were ordered evacuated after a training fire for state crews reportedly was swept out of control by gusty winds north of Smartsville.

Crews also fought a 35-acre wildfire in Mariposa County; a 50-acre blaze in San Joaquin County, and a 40-acre fire near the Central California rural town of Bootjack that briefly forced evacuations.

— AP

Update 3:59 p.m.: Evacuation center changes

With mandatory evacuations still under order for some camp areas near the Lake Fire in San Bernardino County, fire officials are reporting that the evacuation center at Citrus Valley High will close for now and campers will move to the University of Redlands. According to their site

As of 4pm, today, June 18, 2015, the Citrus Valley High School evacuation center will be closing. Kid's camp will conclude at the University of Redlands. Red Cross is seeking a new evacuation center location.

Devore Animal Center in San Bernardino is accepting pets who've been displaced by the fire, according to the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department. In addition to campgrounds, about 20 homes in the area near Rainbow Lane have been evacuated, Forest service spokesman Lee Beyer told KPCC. 

The county has opened a new evacuation center at St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Church in Yucaipa. 

Meanwhile, smoke from the fire has obscured skies in areas near the wildfire. We have some tips on how to handle wildfire smoke here

Tweet: Smoky skies near wildfire

Update 12:15 p.m.: Fire spreads quickly, makes run up mountainsides

The Lake Fire in the San Bernardino National Forest jumped 6,000 acres in six hours Thursday morning, San Bernardino County Fire confirmed.

The growth was due to a combination of winds and topography, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Lee Beyer told KPCC. 

"Wind is still pushing to the east, but it's also getting established on some of the hillsides on the north side of San Gorgonio [Mountain]," Beyer said. "It's also making some runs in some of that area as well, going uphill. " 

Beyer said there are no additional evacuations being ordered currently. Highway 38 will remain closed from just south of Big Bear Lake as crews try to get a handle on the flames.

"They're going to be trying to anchor, pinch and flank," Beyer said. "So starting from a safe point along the fire line where they can start working the fire itself, and then just anchoring and working that flank up towards the head of the fire." That strategy is not uncommon, Beyer said. 

"The problem is, right now the fire's moving a little bit quicker than they are able to safely get in there," Beyer said. 

Air tankers have been called in to drop water on the flames. Beyer says there are no communities in the immediate path of the fire, but cautions that residents of the general area should consider what they might need to grab in case the fire expands. 

"The fire's definitely burning. It's moving a lot," he said.








Image courtesy of KPCC’s media partner NBC4

Earlier in the day, the fire forced the evacuation of about 200 campers in the forest.

Among them were Syndi Dorman's two children, who were attending a performance arts camp, Camp Bravo, in the forest this week.

"I got this bleep from a news site on my phone saying that there's a 25 acre forest fire up in the San Bernardino mountain," she told KPCC. "A ping went on in my head — 'Oh my goodness, that's where my kids are.'"

Dorman says she was looking for information about the fire online Thursday morning when she finally received an email from the camp's director saying the children were safe at a local high school.

She had the chance to talk to her 15-year-old daughter, who said she and her brother were fine.

"I'm feeling a lot more relieved just knowing [they're] OK," said Dorman.

— KPCC staff

Update 11:50 a.m.: Lake Fire has burned 1,700 acres 

The Lake Fire burning in the San Bernardino National Forest has grown to 1,700 acres, according to officials. It has been 15 percent contained. 

Winds are expected to carry smoke toward the northeast and east of the Mojave Desert Basin. The eastern San Bernardino Mountains area, including Big Bear Lake, are forecasted to experience periods of unhealthy air quality.

The National Weather Service posted an animated GIF showing the spread of smoke over the region:


Evacuations continue to include areas east of Angelus Oaks, Onyx Summit, Barton Flats, Seven Oaks and homes off of Rainbow Lane. 

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is advising people affected by smoke to keep windows and doors closed.

— KPCC staff

Update 10:20 a.m.: Fire grows to 1,500 acres

The fire in San Bernardino National Forest has grown to 1,500 acres by Thursday morning, according to officials. The cause is still under investigation. 

— KPCC staff

6:49 a.m.: 2 wildfires bring evacuations in Southern California

A wildfire forced the evacuation of nearly 200 campers, most of them children, from campgrounds in the San Bernardino National Forest.

The Lake Fire in San Bernardino County expanded from 100 acres to roughly 1,000 acres overnight.

Officials say the evacuees include 120 kids from Camp de Benneville Pines in the wilderness south of Big Bear Lake, 90 miles east of Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, crews have slowed the spread of a wildfire near a casino in northern San Diego County that prompted evacuations.

State fire spokesman Kendal Bortisser says the Wildcat Fire that broke out Wednesday afternoon on the Barona Indian Reservation has burned about 150 acres of brush. It's 10 percent contained.

Bortisser says about seven homes were evacuated, but by nightfall no mandatory evacuation orders remained in place.


Fire Tracker: Wildcat Fire in San Diego County

This post has been updated.

With contributions from KPCC staff

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