California is literally ablaze, with wildfires consuming thousands of acres in the northern and southern parts of the state. Firefighters are struggling to contain the fires, which have been described as “explosive.”
In Southern California, the Blue Cut fire in the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County is burning near the 15 Freeway. More than 82,000 residents are under mandatory evacuation. It’s unclear how many structures have been lost to the fire, said Justin Correll with the U.S. Forest Service.
Mandatory evacuation areas, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, include:
• Wrightwood from San Bernardino County Line to Jackson Lake
• Phelan/Piñon Hills
• Lone Pine Canyon, Swarthout Canyon, West Cajon Valley and Lytle Creek Canyon
• West of 15 Freeway, west of Highway 395 and west of Summit Valley
• South of Bear Valley Road and east of Caughlin Road
• East of Sheep Creek, south of Phelan Road and west of Green Road, including Desert Front Road area
As of 4 p.m. on Wednesday, the fire had burned more than 30,000 acres, according to updated reports. Authorities previously reported the acreage at 65,000 but the erroneous figure was due to a software glitch. The fire is zero percent contained and was first reported at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday. The 15 Freeway remained closed Wednesday from Rancheo to Devore as well as Highway 138 from Highway 2 to Summit Valley Road, and surrounding roads.
An evacuation center has been set up at a community center in Fontana at 15556 Summit Ave. Fontana. There is another at Sultana High School, 17311 Sultana, Hesperia.
Red flag conditions remain in effect for San Bernardino County until 9 p.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Winds are forecast to reach 35 mph, according to Correll.
Air quality was unhealthy in much of the region because of the smoke, according to the Mojave and South Coast air quality management districts. Smoke advisories suggest limiting time spent outdoors, avoiding outdoor exercise when smoke is in the air and using the air conditioner.
Firefighters are also battling to control a Northern California blaze that destroyed at least 175 homes and businesses as it grew to 4,000 acres and forced 4,000 people from their homes. Everyone is believed to have gotten out of their homes safely, however some pets have died.
On Monday, the fire in Lower Lake, Calif., was 5% contained and fire officials said they expected the flames to continue to be aggressive, spurred by temperatures in the 90s.
Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin said late Monday that Damin Pashilk, a resident of nearby Clearlake, had been arrested and booked on multiple counts of arson in connection with the Clayton fire and other fires in the area during the last year.
The fire is the fourth major blaze since last summer to hit Lake County, an agricultural, retirement and resort area 90 miles northeast of San Francisco.
The near five-year drought and record high temperatures in the state have only aggravated the problem. There are six major fires still burning in California and others burning throughout the West. In northern and central California, officials say the fire season could continue until November. But in the southern part of the state, the season could last even longer due to the drought.