Monday, April 30, 2007
"A wildland fire that started behind a grocery store Sunday afternoon in Kernville grew to nearly 300 acres Sunday evening, according to the Kern County Fire Department.
A helicopter passes over a fire in the Kernville area as it continued to burn Sunday evening.
The James fire started behind James Sierra Gateway Market on Sierra Way, said department engineer Michael Nicholas.
The 293-acre blaze started around 2:50 p.m., store employee Rick Estes said Sunday afternoon.
Flames, fueled by wind, burned near the edge of the store, which sits on a hill.
Estes said he sprayed down the ground behind the store with a garden hose to ward off the fire. He observed planes dropping fire retardant and helicopters dropping water. He counted some 40 firefighters from the Kern County Fire Department and the U.S. Forest Service.
'They'll be working on it through the night and into (Monday),' Nicholas said."
Sunday, April 29, 2007
HINKLEY — San Bernardino County arson investigators and sheriff’s deputies linked a recent fire on the corner of Lenwood Road and Agate Road and the flare-up of six other High Desert wildland fires to one man.
On Thursday, deputies arrested Filimon Griego, 74, of Oro Grande, for suspicion of causing seven wildfires along roadways in Helendale, Hinkley and Barstow.
Tracey Martinez, a spokeswoman for the county fire department, said similar ignition methods found at all seven sites led investigators to connect the fires. Further evidence found at the scenes, Martinez said, implicated Griego in the fires.
According to a county fire department report, the fires began on Sunday. Firefighters contained the seven separate fires to only about a quarter of an acre each, the report stated. Martinez said no dollar amount was established for damages.
Sal Corrao, division chief with the Barstow Fire Protection District, said he believes the district assisted on two related fires on Thursday. The district’s fire prevention specialist also assisted the county in the investigation. Tire tracks and footprints found at the scenes compounded the evidence pointing toward an intentionally set fire, he said.
“Anytime you have wildland fires in the desert, it is either accidental or intentional,” Corrao said. Instances of the desert spontaneously combusting are rare, he said, unless the wind blows down a power line. Cases of arson in the area are also unusual, he said; most wildfires are accidental.
County investigators also determined the fires were not actually acts of arson. Jody Miller, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department, said Griego is being charge with reckless burning of wildland.
“The amount of intent was not there to warrant an arson charge,” Miller said.
Martinez said Griego was arrested, cited and then released due to medical conditions. The charge will be forwarded to the district attorney, Miller said, and could be increased to arson.
Tanker ignites; Oakland interchange collapses - CNN.com:
OAKLAND, California (AP) -- A heavily traveled section of freeway that funnels traffic off the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge collapsed early Sunday after a gasoline tanker truck overturned and erupted into flames, authorities said.
Flames shot 200 feet in the air and the heat was intense enough to melt part of the freeway and cause the collapse, but the truck's driver walked away from the scene with second-degree burns.
No other injuries were reported.
"I've never seen anything like it," Officer Trent Cross of the California Highway Patrol said of the crumpled interchange.
"I'm looking at this thinking, 'Wow, no one died -- that's amazing. It's just very fortunate."
Authorities said the damage could take months to repair, and that it would cause the worst disruption for Bay Area commuters since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake damaged a section of the Bay Bridge itself.
Nearly 75,000 vehicles use the portion of the road every day. But because the accident occured where three highways converge, authorities said it could cause commuting problems for hundreds of thousands of people.
Transportation officials said they already had added trains to the Bay Area Rapid Transit light rail system that takes commuters across San Francisco Bay, and were urging people to telecommute if possible.
State officials said motorists who try to take alternate routes Monday instead of relying on public transportation would face nightmarish commutes.
The tanker carrying 8,600 gallons of gasoline ignited around 3:45 a.m. after crashing into a pylon on the interchange, which connects westbound lanes of Interstate 80 to southbound I-880, on the edge of downtown Oakland about half a mile from the Bay Bridge's toll plaza.
A preliminary investigation indicated he may have been speeding on the curving road, Cross said.
The fire melted a second interchange from eastbound I-80 to eastbound I-580 located above the first interchange, causing a 250-yard section of the roadway to collapse onto the roadway below, according to the highway patrol.
Witnesses reported flames from the blaze reached up to 200 feet high.
Late Sunday morning, the charred section of collapsed freeway was draped at a sharp angle onto the highway beneath, exposing a web of twisted metal beneath the concrete.
The Bay Bridge consists of two heavily traveled, double-decked bridges about two miles long straddling San Francisco Bay.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said the accident showed how fragile the Bay area's transportation network is, whether to an earthquake or terrorist attack, and has the potential to have a major economic effect on the city."It's another giant wakeup call," Newsom told reporters at the California Democratic Party convention in San Diego
The truck's driver suffered second-degree burns, Officer Trent Cross of the California Highway Patrol told KGO-TV.
The tanker ignited after crashing into a pylon on an interchange connecting westbound lanes of Interstate 80, which includes the Bay Bridge, to southbound I-880 in Oakland, officials said. (Watch I-Reporter Paul Kochli explain his video of the aftermath of the fiery truck crash Video)
The fire led to the collapse of a second interchange from eastbound I-80 to eastbound Interstate 580 located above the first interchange, Cross said.
The Bay Bridge's heavily traveled double decks run about two miles across the San Francisco Bay."
Friday, April 27, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
Shanna-isms: Bad News For Georgia Fire Control:
"Bad News For Georgia Fire Control
Weather conditions, which include high winds, and lowered temperatures and humidity, are certainly no help to firefighters who expect Ware county's 'monster fire' to worsen today. Winds advisories are expected to last until 6pm.
Twenty-seven additional homes have been evacuated, three of which were lost to the flames. Flame lengths have been observed as high as 60 to 70 feet, and the fire's progression has been about one mile per hour. After 11 days, this fire is only about 50% contained, though the number of firefighters on task has risen from 350 to over 600.
I'll try to get out this afternoon for more photos."
Editor- This website normally sticks to California and western states but this fire is quickly assuming California wildfire proportions this blog report comes from a apparently impacted citizen of the state Georgia. We wish for her safety and all others in the state of Georgi
Thursday, April 26, 2007
County manager wants to know if public money used on that or previous excursions
News broke on Tuesday that San Mateo County's two top cops — Sheriff Greg Munks and Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos, were detained by Las Vegas police Saturday night during a raid on a suspected brothel off the Las Vegas strip.
Now, County Manager John Maltbie is requesting that the county Controller's Office examine "any expenses related to a law enforcement run in Las Vegas for this year and the past three years" and report the findings to the county's Board of Supervisors, according to a Wednesday statement from county spokesman Marshall Wilson.
Munks and Bolanos had traveled to Las Vegas to participate in the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay, an annual run for law enforcement.
Lt. Lisa Williams, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office, affirmed Wednesday that no county funds wereused to pay for Munks' and Bolanos' trip.
"Each participant paid their own way for the trip," said Williams, though she added that some county vehicles were taken to Las Vegas.
For the time being, members of the Board of Supervisors have largely kept mum on the subject.
"It would be premature for me or any other public official to comment on these news reports until we have all of the facts," Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson said Tuesday in a prepared statement.
Neither Munks nor Bolanos was arrested duringthe Las Vegas police raid, dubbed "Operation Dollhouse," and both men have denied engaging in any illegal activity — claiming that they mistook the brothel for a legal massage parlor.
"I believed I was going to a legitimate business — it was not," Munks told the press Tuesday.
Both Munks and Bolanos have refused to comment on the weekend's misadventure beyond an apology and a denial of any wrongdoing delivered in a prepared statement.
The two San Mateo County law enforcement officials were found on the property of the raided business, the Las Vegas police department confirmed.
"I'm not prepared to say they were actually customers," said Las Vegas police spokesman Bill Cassell.
According to Cassell, the "massage parlor" did not have a sign advertising its services and was in a mixed residential and light-industrial neighborhood, some two miles west of the commercial Las Vegas strip.
The suspected brothel was one of nine targeted by police, the FBI, the IRS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement as the result of a two-year investigation into an Asian organized-crime ring. Six people were arrested during the series of raids, and law enforcement seized some 3,500 Ecstasy tabs and about $25,000
Links:Original article at: Inside Bay Area - County to check funding for officers' Vegas trip
Bob's News Blog previous story
LAFCO: Fire districts OK to merge
Half Moon Bay, Point Montara already functioning as one
By Julia Scott, STAFF WRITER
Article Launched: 04/26/2007 02:43:03 AM PDT
HALF MOON BAY — The Coastside's two fire districts will become one this summer, the Local Agency Formation Commission decided in a meeting on Wednesday night.
The consolidation of the Half Moon Bay and Point Montara Fire Protection districts — and all their assets, equipment, and property taxes — has been a long time coming. The two fire districts, which serve a population of
25,000 collectively from Half Moon Bay to Montara, have already been operating as a de facto single entity since 1998, when Point Montara's fire house in Moss Beach began contracting with Half Moon Bay for its fire services.
Both agencies formally applied to become a consolidated district last October. As of July 1, unless there is a substantial public protest, the two fire departments will become known as the Coastside Fire Protection District.
The move was heralded by some as a step toward greater efficiency and clarity of purpose for the two districts, which have existed side-by-side for more than 50 years. Others decried it as a move to con Half Moon Bay taxpayers into carrying Point Montara's expenses on its ledger as both fire districts move toward finalizing a contract with CalFire, formerly known as CDF.
Point Montara board member Ginny McShane said the consolidation was inevitable.
"We're very isolated out here, so we need to hook up with our neighbors," said McShane. "A small district cannot exist in today's world. We'd go the way of the dinosaur eventually. Or we'd have to raise taxes."
Under the terms of the agreement, which was adopted by a unanimous motion at the meeting in Half Moon Bay's main fire station Wednesday night, the buildings, equipment, land, and property taxes that go toward each district would flow into the consolidated district instead, creating an estimated revenue flow of $8.9 million.
Consolidation is expected to save the district — and taxpayers — an additional $50,000 in administrative costs when implemented, according to Martha Poyatos, executive officer of LAFCO. The two boards of directors, numbering eight members in total, would eventually be whittled down to one board of five members through term limits and at-large elections beginning in 2009.
Both districts will continue to collect and spend the fire assessment money residents pay within each zone, since there is such a large discrepancy between the two amounts. Point Montara Fire Protection District residents pay an annual assessment of $160. Half Moon Bay, with many more residents, asks $35 per parcel a year.
The Point Montara fire district currently pays $1,428,000 to Half Moon Bay for fire services.
Link to whole story at Inside Bay Area
SACRAMENTO – The Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce voted 8-2 late Monday to approve legislation by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to replace gas floor furnaces known to cause fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Wolk drafted the legislation in response to a house fire that nearly killed a former field representative of Wolk’s, Kingsley Melton of Davis.
Last December, on the day after Christmas, a fire in San Diego severely burnt Melton. The fire was caused by an old gas floor furnace thought to be inoperable. An unusual cold snap triggered the thermostat, and the furnace turned on—lighting the furnace and a nearby couch on fire. Melton escaped the apartment with severe burns. After spending over three weeks in a coma and undergoing two skin-graft operations, he is making a full recovery.
Wolk researched the issue and found dozens of other similar fires in recent years, many of them resulting in death. Prior legislative efforts to replace old floor and wall furnaces have failed. Wolk’s bill focuses only on floor furnaces.
“Thousands of these furnaces were installed in homes decades ago,” said Wolk. “Although they are now obsolete and recognized by fire experts as fundamentally unsafe, thousands are still in use. The purpose of this bill is to replace every one of these deadly and inefficient furnaces in California.
Wolk’s legislation, Assembly Bill 1234, requires the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to establish a program to assist low-income residents in replacing gas floor furnaces. The bill also declares dwelling units with gas floor furnaces untenantable beginning in 2014.
Witnesses in support included firefighters, advocates for seniors and low-income Californians, and Melton, who provided the lead testimony.
“I’ve since learned of dozens of stories similar to mine,” said Melton. The sad part is how many weren’t as lucky as me, if that’s what you want to call it,” Melton said. “I don’t want anyone to go through what I’ve been through. This bill is a good start, and because of it fewer people will die and suffer the pain I’ve suffered, and fewer families will have to go through what mine went through, and worse.”
“It is enough that these furnaces are a public health and safety issue, one existing most commonly in the homes and apartments of low-income Californians. But this is also an issue of energy efficiency,” said Wolk. “These furnaces are notoriously energy inefficient, especially when compared to newer, and much more efficient, wall furnaces and other heating systems. These furnaces need to be replaced with something safer and more efficient, and the sooner the better.
The bill is supported by the California Professional Firefighters, California Fire Chiefs Association, Fire Districts Association of California, California State Firefighters Association, Western Center on Law and Poverty, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, the American Association of Retired Persons, Consumer Attorneys of California, and the Division of Ratepayer Advocate of the Public Utilities Commission.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
LONG BEACH, Calif. A Fountain Valley man who walked into Long Beach City Hall and set himself on fire was suicidal.Police say the 50-year-old man walked into the building lobby yesterday afternoon, said 'I want to die' and set himself ablaze.A security guard tackled the man and extinguished the flames.The man is hospitalized with burns to more than 20 percent of his body.Police plan to ask L-A county prosecutors next week to file charges of attempted arson and arson with great bodily injury against the man. They say they don't know why he chose city hall to set himself on fire.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
On Wednesday, April 18, 2007 at 5:54 PM, 29 Companies of Los Angeles Firefighters, 9 LAFD Rescue Ambulances, 3 Arson Units, 2 Urban Search and Rescue Units, 1 Rehab Unit, 1 Hazardous Materials Team, 2 Helicopters, 4 EMS Battalion Captains, 6 Battalion Chief Officer Command Teams, 1 Division Chief Officer Command Team, Tractor Company, Emergency Air, Foam Tenders 100, 101 & 17 all under the direction of Deputy Chief Mario Rueda responded to a Major Emergency Structure Fire at 2001 N. Marianna Av. in the Hillside Village/University Hills area.
As Fire Companies arrived, they observed a single story commercial building with heavy smoke and fire billowing from the rear. Further assessment revealed a large outside fire which had extended into the large 1 story, 150 x 600 foot, metal clad commercial building.
Firefighters tried to initiate a fierce initial interior attack on the fire, but were driven back by the intense flames from the fuel load. The business was identified as "Y" Tire Sales and Warehouse. The Incident was upgraded to a Major Emergency Fire. The thick black smoke emanating from the incident, required the rail system to be shutdown their tracks for safety purposes during the incident.
With a swift and well-coordinated transition, Firefighters went into "defensive tactics" utilizing heavy stream appliances and strategically placed master streams, applying Class B Foam to the fuel load of tires. Additional Firefighters extinguished several fires which threatened surrounding structures. When the fire spread into the grass, Helicopters were requested for the incident. During one of the water drops, the flight crew notified the IC that wind driven embers, from the grass fire, were spreading towards a residential neighborhood. Resources were quickly dispatched, initiating a separate structure fire incident (See PSO report Inc. # 1037, 4/18/07, at 1827).
It took 202 fire personnel 1 hour and 34 minutes before a knockdown was called. Fire resources will remain on-scene to complete the overhaul phase of cleanup. The dollar loss and cause of the fire have not been determined at this time. Miraculously, there were no reported injuries to civilians or firefighters.
Submitted by d'Lisa Davies
Los Angeles Fire Department
Saturday, April 14, 2007
LODD - Bryan Zollner
Bryan Zollner, the North Region Staff Chief for the California Department of Forestry (CAL FIRE), was killed in crash the morning of April 12, according to a press release.
While driving on Route 44, his vehicle left the road in Lassen County. The California Highway Patrol responded and is conducting an investigation along with CAL FIRE.
In the press release, CAL FIRE Director Ruben Grijalva said, "CAL FIRE lost one if its best and brightest leaders. His passing will affect our organization for a long time to come."
Chief Zollner came from legacy of firefighters. His father was a fire chief for the city of Oroville, Calif. and his great grandfather was a firefighter in Detroit.
Among other accolades, Chief Zollner received the Medal of Valor in 1998 for an off-duty rescue of a child from a burning structure in Riverside.
He is survived by his wife, Pam; son, Ty; daughter, Alexia Moore; son-in-law, Charles Moore; two grandchildren; sister, Tracy Zollner; and parents Bob and Brenda Zollner.
Funeral information is still pending.
CAL FIRE NEWS RELEASE
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
Chief Bryan Zollner Memorial Announcement
REDDING – Services for Bryan Zollner, Staff Chief of Operations for CAL FIRE’s Northern
Region will be held Thursday, April 19th 2007 at 11:00 a.m. The memorial will be held at Big
League Dreams, a sports park in Redding, California. The park is located at 20155 Viking Way
(cross street of Old Oregon Trail) in Redding, California.
Nice memorial page from Riverside County CDF
Official Cal Fire Memorial information link
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Working fire northwest of Beverly Hills, CA in the Beverly Glen area. LA Fire calling it minimum 15 acres with at least one home involved and what their PIO called multiple roof fires. Winds are 25+ mph with temps in the low 70's. K-CAL 9 TV covering it from the ground with no or minimal aircraft due to wind.
Wind Sweeps Embers To Dry VegetationLOS ANGELES -- A wind-driven brush fire fueled by dry vegetation damaged homes Thursday afternoon in the Beverly Glen area
The fire started at about 1 p.m. in the 1600 block of North Beverly Drive.
Ron Myers of the Los Angeles Fire Department said the fire burned about 35 acres by 2:50 p.m."It appears that we're starting to get a handle on it," said Jim Powers of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. "Unfortunately, we've also heard that a few structures have been lost."
Myers said strong winds spread embers onto dry vegetation. He said formal evacuations were not ordered."I've never seen winds like this," a resident told NBC4. "It's unbelievable. The roads are covered with palm leaves and pine cones. It's a mess."Three water-dropping helicopters were at the scene.
Fire crews said winds pushed some of the water drops off target.Winds were at 25 to 30 mph with strong gusts. NBC4 forecaster Fritz Coleman said gusts Tuesday afternoon reached 60 mph in some areas."Even though the wind is burning against (the fire), it's still burning uphill because the brush is so dry," said Powers.Powers said the Los Angeles area has received 2.5 inches of rain since the start of 2007. Normal rainfall amounts are between 11 and 12 inches, he said.Powers said crews used a nearby water source, the Lower Franklin Reservoir, which allowed helicopters to make frequent drops.
Brea Brush FireA blaze that blackened brush alongside the Carbon Canyon dam in Brea Thursday threatened a mobile home park before firefighters brought the flames under control, a fire captain said.
The fire, reported at 1:37 p.m. in the area of Rose and Valencia drives, grew to two to three acres before hand crews and a water-dropping helicopter stopped its spread, said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Stephen Miller.
Crews planned to keep an eye out for flying embers that could re-ignite vegetation in the face of conditions Miller described as "a little breezy."The fire burned the side of the Carbon Canyon dam, leaving it "pretty clean," Miller said.
The cause was unknown, but Miller said there are power lines in the area and the fire could have been sparked by a downed line.In Palmdale, a three-acre fire broke out at North Sierra Highway and Pearblossom Highway at about 1:30 p.m.
Power OutagesHigh winds also knocked out electricity to about 10,000 Department of Water and Power customers in the Woodland Hills area and about 1,600 others in North Hollywood, officials said.The electrical outages, which also affected other areas, developed late Thursday morning and continued in the afternoon, said MaryAnne Pierson of the DWP."There are outages throughout our service area due to wind," Pierson said. Crews were working to restore service, she said.Gil Alexander of Southern California Edison told KFWB radio that about 2,000 of the utility's customers were without electricity as of 1:45 p.m., but the number of people affected was rising as winds increased.
The station also reported that winds knocked down power lines near Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Riverside Drive near Studio City, sparking a small grass fire.Gusting winds were howling across many parts of the Southland.
The National Weather Service issued wind advisories in the San Fernando, San Gabriel and Santa Clarita valleys, and issued high wind warnings in the Antelope Valley and Los Angeles County mountains.According to the Weather Service, wind gusts of up to 35 mph can be expected in the San Fernando Valley, while the Santa Clarita Valley could experience gusts of up to 55 mph.Antelope Valley and the Los Angeles County Mountains could be even windier, with gusts up to 65 mph.Earlier Thursday,
the Weather Service reported peak winds of 58 mph in Saugus and 49 mph in Palmdale.
Monday, April 9, 2007
Palmer Canyon, Calif., residents who blamed the city for homes burned in the 2003 Grand Prix wildfire have settled their lawsuit for $17.5 million, city officials announced.
Homeowners claimed the city failed to properly clear brush on its nearby land, providing fuel for the blaze that destroyed their homes. Forty-three homes in Palmer Canyon were destroyed and others were damaged.
Some 62 plaintiffs in the suit will share the $17.5 million and the money will be used to rebuild the homes, homeowners' attorney Mark Grotefeld said.
"My clients are very happy that the lawsuit is now concluded, and they can move forward with hopefully rebuilding their homes," Grotefeld said.
Claremont is a member of the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority and will only pay a $30,000 deductible toward the settlement. The rest of the settlement cost will be shared by the insurance authority's 106 member agencies, which include cities and other local governments in the state, said Jonathan Shull, executive director of the La Palma-based organization.
"None of us are happy with the large payout," Mayor Peter Yao said. "The JPIA felt that settling it was the best course of action, so we went along with their recommendation.
"As to whether we're responsible or not, none of us feel we were completely responsible. (But) based on the fact that we're paying something, that implies that we do have a certain amount of responsibility," he said.
The Grand Prix wildfire started on Oct. 21, 2003.
Sunday, April 1, 2007
MIRAMAR MCAS (CNS) - A fire burning at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar is part of a training exercise and is set to end this afternoon, an official said.
The controlled burn, which began yesterday, is being conducted near the MCAS airport for the Aircraft, Rescue and Fire Department, said Lance Cpl. George Papastrat. The fire is due to be extinguished by 3 p.m.
At times the burn has produced large black plumes of smoke, and many phone calls from residents, Papastrat said.
So far, the training exercise has gone well, Papastrat added."
Wildfire in California forces mandatory evacuations of 200 homesCA-BDC/HSP/BDU-Las Flores Incident
POSTED: 2:00 pm PDT April 1, 2007
Fire crews from San Diego County are helping battle the Hesperia Fire in San Bernardino County,
The San Diego County firefighters will stay until the fire is fully contained..
CDF sent out four engines and four 16-member hand crews to fight the blaze, which so far has burned 2,000 acres.
Authorities in this high desert city east of Los Angeles ordered mandatory evacuations Saturday while the fire grew in the early evening. By 10 p.m., evacuation orders for all but about 30 houses were lifted and families were allowed to return
The blaze started at 10:40 a.m. Saturday near Hesperia, located 80 miles northeast of Los Angeles and prompted the evacuation of 230 homes, according to local media reports.
Although no injuries have been reported, the fire did damage the roof of one home. It is now 50 percent contained, according to local media reports.
The fire burned a shed and the roof of a house as about 400 firefighters and a pair of water-dropping helicopters worked to keep other homes and out buildings from being consumed, said San Bernardino County Fire spokeswoman Angie Samayoa.
The blaze burned out of control for much of the day, but firefighters began gaining the upper hand after nightfall. The fire was 5 percent contained, and full containment was predicted by Sunday night, Samayoa said.
"I think the combination of the firefighters and the favorable weather conditions helped us," Samayoa said. "The winds laid down, and temperature laid down."
Samayoa said evacuations were in a "fairly well-populated area" and in many cases flames were within feet of some houses.
Authorities are investigating what started the fire."
Related link: San Diego Fire Dept. Helping In Hesperia Fire
Hesperia fire prompts hundreds to evacuate
April 1, 2007
Firefighters from three counties battled a fast-moving fire Saturday in the high-desert town of Hesperia, a blaze that by nightfall had consumed 1,400 acres and prompted the evacuation of about 500 residents from more than 200 homes.
Officials said the fire, about 80 miles northeast of Los Angeles, damaged the roof of one home and consumed an outbuilding. No injuries were reported. The cause was under investigation.
The Las Flores fire began about 10:40 a.m. and remained quiet during the day, consuming 100 acres of juniper and creosote bushes. But the flames flared in the afternoon, fanned by gusty winds. By 3 p.m., the city of 82,000 was on heightened alert and mandatory evacuations were ordered, said City Manager Mike Podegracz.
Police and city crews went door-to-door to roust residents, a process that was confused by motorists streaming into the area to watch the fire. "My field people told me there were as many coming in as going out," Podegracz said.
Angie Samayoa of the San Bernardino County Fire Department said 400 firefighters were on fire lines and two helicopters were dumping water on the flames. Samayoa said the blaze was 5% contained by late evening. Officials said full containment could come by 6 p.m. today.
The front was moving northeast, toward uninhabited areas of the desert. Podegracz said Saturday night that it was moving in the direction of the half-mile-wide Mojave River, which officials were hoping would serve as a natural fire break.
Among the first to evacuate was Tammy Castillo. She packed up her 11-year-old son, 7-year-old daughter, cat and dog and drove to the Sultana High School evacuation center. She said the smoke and ash choked her, burned her eyes and made the decision to flee easy. "It was black and looked like midnight. It was pretty scary," she said. "You just pack up your pictures and get everyone in the car."
By nightfall, at least 11 people had checked into the evacuation center, said Bill Pyle, a volunteer with the American Red Cross, High Desert Chapter. A few hours later, officials lifted the evacuation order for parts of the city and many residents were expected to return home.
"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer." --Abraham Lincoln
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