Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Las Flores fire - CA-BDF-Las Flores Incident

Hesperia fire prompts hundreds to evacuate

Police and city crews go door to door to roust residents as flames char 1,400 acres. The cause is under investigation.
By Julie Cart and Stuart Pfeifer, Times Staff Writers
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.


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