After four days and 100-plus homes destroyed, fire crews getting control of SoCal blaze

A van destroyed by the Blue Cut Fire sits in Mormon Rocks, California, on Friday. By Saturday afternoon, the blaze had burned more than 37,000 acres, destroyed at least 105 homes and was about 70 percent contained, officials said. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, Calif., Aug. 20 (UPI) — Firefighters gained more control Saturday over a savage blaze in the Southern California wilderness that so far has destroyed more than 300 homes and other structures, and blackened nearly 60 square miles of land.

Crews continued to fight the Blue Cut Fire overnight Friday and now have the flames nearly three-quarters contained. Officials said containment was at about 70 percent by Saturday afternoon — up from just 26 percent a day earlier and 40 percent Friday night. More than 37,000 acres in San Bernardino County have been charred.

The wildfire started Tuesday near the Cajon Pass off Interstate 15, about 65 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

Some of the evacuations were lifted Friday, allowing some of the 82,000 people under mandatory orders to return to their homes — if there was a home to return to.

“We know there are going to be people who are going to come home to nothing in a fire like this, that seemed to burn at will and jump literally a half-mile ahead of itself,” San Bernardino County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig said.

On Saturday, officials said at least 105 homes had been destroyed, along with more than 200 other structures. However, not one death or injury has been reported.

“The crews are still working to determine that everyone made it out safe and there were no fatalities in this fire,” Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for Cal Fire, said.

More than 34,000 buildings, though, are still threatened by the fast-moving fire, which is being fed by extreme drought conditions. Saturday, fire crews focused on the communities of Lytle Creek and Wrightwood.

“There’s still internal burning that has to be watched,” U.S. Forest Service official Robert Taylor said.

The fire shut down stretches of several roads in the area, including California Highway 138 and Interstate 15, which is the main route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

More than 2,600 firefighters are working to put out the flames, officials said. The U.S. Forest Service’s website lists 275 fire engines, 32 bulldozers, 26 water tenders, 10 air tankers and 14 helicopters on the scene.

The cause of the fire, which is one of several burning in California, is not yet known.

The Chimney Fire in San Luis Obispo County has burned more than 15,000 acres and is 32 percent contained. The Clayton Fire, started by an arsonist in Northern California, has destroyed about 300 structures, 4,000 acres and is 80 percent contained.


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