Helicopters Launch to Fight 3 1/2-Square-Mile Etiwanda Fire as Winds Shift
On their third day of the battle to get a wildfire in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains contained, firefighters were making good progress Friday but faced shifting wind direction that could prompt the blaze to spread, authorities said.
Ground crews were getting help from four helicopters that were able to launch after two days of high Santa Ana winds had kept aircraft grounded, according to a tweet from the San Bernardino National Forest.
The blaze broke out amid a spring heat wave in a remote canyon above Rancho Cucamonga (map) on Wednesday morning. It quickly spread through the North Etiwanda Preserve toward homes and into the forest.
A 9 a.m. update Friday from the U.S. Forest Service stated that the fire’s size had grown from 1,627 acres to 2,190 acres, or nearly 3 1/2 square miles, but that growth was attributed to better aerial mapping.
Until Friday morning, high winds had kept firefighting aircraft grounded, but planes had been able to get up to map the blaze, according to the multiagency InciWeb page on the Etiwanda Fire.
Overnight Thursday and into Friday, a small flare-up occurred in an area called the Smith drainage, but it was quickly put out and the fire’s perimeter held, the Forest Service stated in the update.
The challenge Friday was a shift in wind direction, with lighter onshore winds now coming from the southwest, which could cause the fire to grow, according to update. It was burning in dry grass and chaparral.
Two maps released Friday appeared to show the edge of the fire moving north up Day Canyon.
The high was expected to be 93 degrees with 5 percent humidity on Friday.
The blaze had prompted mandatory evacuations on Wednesday that were lifted that night. Area schools were closed for two days, but were open on Friday.
One home had minor damage in the fire.
More than 900 fire and law enforcement personnel were working the Etiwanda Fire, which remained 67 percent contained Friday.
At least three firefighters received minor injuries while battling the blaze, according to the multiagency InciWeb page.
Correction: An earlier version of this post gave the incorrect mountain range where the fire was burning. The Etiwanda Fire burned into the San Bernardino National Forest, but in the San Gabriel Mountains. The story has been updated.