The wildfire that has burned more than 7,000 acres in Yucaipa and surrounding areas was caused by an explosive used during a gender reveal party, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The state agency said the fire started at El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa on Saturday morning, when a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device at the party sparked the flames. The wildfire broke out at 10:23 a.m., spreading to areas further north and triggering mandatory evacuations, officials said.
Dubbed the El Dorado Fire, it more than doubled in size Sunday as firefighters grappled with challenging weather conditions of extreme heat and low humidity.
“I’ve been watching this fire the last two days, watching it grow,” said Deborah Reynolds, who lives in Yucaipa. “I never thought it would come as far as it did, and all of a sudden, it was leaping towards my home.”
“The fireman was knocking on the door for me to get out. I had to leave my cats; I grabbed water and my purse and I went,” Reynolds said. She waited in a parking lot and prayed for the best.
The wildfire burned about 3,010 acres and was 5% contained by Sunday afternoon, Cal Fire officials said. At 7 p.m., San Bernardino National Forest officials estimated it was about 7,050 acres while remaining at a containment of just 5%.
“Today’s weather is a concern as it’s predicted to be the hottest day of the heatwave,” officials with the San Bernardino National Forest said Sunday morning. “The vegetation is also extremely dry.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a State of Emergency in San Bernardino County due to the wildfire and secured federal assistance to fight fires burning in other parts of the state.
Residents can sign up for emergency alerts on the San Bernardino County website. The Red Cross has set up a reception site at the Yucaipa Community Center.
The wildfire pushed south across the northeast edge of Yucaipa, which led to some changes in evacuation orders through Sunday afternoon, according to fire officials.
The following communities remain under evacuation orders:
- Oak Glen (partial, see road closures)
- Highway 38 area of Mountain Home Village and Forest Falls
- North Bench Yucaipa (north of Yucaipa Boulevard, east of Bryant and south of Highway 38)
- North of Carter Street, west of Bryant Street and south of Highway 38
Road closures include:
- Highway 38 at Bryant Street in Yucaipa and the community of Angelus Oaks
- Oak Glen Road between Pine Bench Road and Cherry Croft Drive
- Bryant Street, north of Carter Street
Officials also shut down the following recreation areas:
- All San Gorgonio Wilderness, trails, trailheads and associated parking lots except for the Pacific Crest Trail, which remains open
- Other trails: Big Falls, Oak Glen Divide, Wilson Creek
- Picnic areas: Falls and Thurman Flats
- General areas: Yucaipa Ridge, Mill Creek drainage and off-trail areas of the San Gorgonio Wilderness south of the San Bernardino Peak Divide Trail, Santa Ana River Trail between 1S14 and Middle Control Road.
- Thomas Hunting Grounds Yellow Post Sites
- Forest roads: 1N12 (near Angelus Oaks), 1S12 (Warm Springs Road), 1S13 and 1S03
The fire has destroyed at least one outbuilding, officials said. Authorities have not reported any injuries.
The flames ignited as Southern California entered the Labor Day weekend in record-breaking heat, with Yucaipa reporting a 108 degree-temperature when the fire started.
Two other fires exploded elsewhere in the state on Saturday: the Valley Fire, which has charred at least 4,000 acres in San Diego County, and the Creek Fire, which trapped campers in the Sierra National Forest.
Forecasters predict even hotter temperatures in parts of California on Sunday before conditions cool down slightly on Monday.