2003 - A Rancho Cucamonga resident prepares to evacuate as flames from the Grand Prix Fire whip toward her north Rancho Cucamonga neighborhood on Oct. 24, 2003. The fire, one of the largest and most destructive in the history of the Inland Valley, started in Fontana and raced across the San Gabriel Mountains to Claremont and La Verne, destroying more than 130 homes and scorching nearly 60,000 acres. (Photo by Therese Tran)

The major Inland Empire wildfires of the first decade of the century all occurred in the late summer and early fall - and especially in October.

There have been 11 regional wildfires since 2000 that burned more than 12,000 acres. Total acres charred are in the millions, with countless blazes chewing through a few thousand acres at a time.

The blazes left hundreds homeless and cost millions of dollars. Some of them killed residents and firefighters; half were caused by humans.

"Something is changing here," said U.S. Forest Service spokesman John Miller. "The season is getting longer, the fires are getting larger, and they're happening more frequently."

October of 2002 and 2003 brought three significant blazes to the foothills and high country of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains.

The Williams Fire consumed 37,240 acres and burned 76 structures between Sept. 22 and Oct. 1, 2002 in the Angeles National Forest between Azusa and Claremont.

That set the stage for the two-fire wallop in late October 2003 that just about brought the Inland Empire to its knees.

For nearly three weeks, more than 150,000 acres of chaparral and forest were charred by the Grand Prix and Old fires, mostly in the San Bernardino National Forest.

The Grand Prix fire began as a small blaze near a foothill neighborhood in Fontana but exploded two days later with the arrival of Santa Ana winds. It burned nearly 60,000 acres as it raced across the San Gabriels from Fontana to the edge of La Verne.