After exploding six days ago in Yucaipa, the El Dorado Fire has ripped through about 13,600 acres and destroyed at least four homes as of Thursday.
The fast-moving blaze forced thousands to flee their homes as a crew of more than 1,200 firefighters converged on the blaze, working to stop the flames from spreading and wreaking more destruction. The fire was 31% contained by Thursday evening, up from 23% earlier in the day.
The blaze remained active on its northern perimeter, near Highway 38 and Valley of the Falls Drive, and south of Angeles Oaks. Weather condition have been so dry and warm that it remains active overnight, officials said on the InciWeb page.
Winds also remain a threat, meaning it could continue to spread rapidly, crews said.
“Up slope winds up to 24 mph are expected, and when combined with steep terrain, means that large fire growth is possible,” according to the InciWeb.
Firefighters planned to continue working to increase protection around the threatened communities of Angeles Oaks, Mountain Home Village and Forest Falls.
Fanned by Santa Ana winds that complicated firefighting efforts in an unstable atmosphere, the fire grew on steep terrain, sometimes running uphill and spotting further out as crews drew lines with fire retardant around the blaze. On Wednesday, the shift in winds meant most firefighting efforts were focused on the ground as smoke choked the air and made for poor visibility.
A wall of flames advanced on the western edge of Forest Falls, but crews were able to successfully defend homes in the area.
In nearby Oak Glen, the blaze destroyed four homes and damaged another two. It tore through six outbuildings, completely destroying them and damaging four more.
Resident Steve Gardner escaped the Apple Fire just weeks ago and had to leave his Oak Glen home again as the El Dorado Fire raged, this time returning to find rubble and a melted truck.
“Clothes are gone but those can be replaced, even my business equipment can be replaced. But some of the sentimental stuff really can’t,” Gardner said Wednesday.
He ended up finding his wedding ring that he was forced to leave behind— completely melted in the inferno.
Those who have managed to evacuate say they’re still suffering through toxic air quality.
“It snowed ashes last night,” evacuee Jeff Johnson said. “It’s terrible out here.”
The massive fire was caused by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device that sparked flames at a gender reveal party during scorching hot temperatures Saturday morning, according to Cal Fire.
Residents in the red portion must evacuate immediately. Areas in the yellow are under evacuation warnings. Click here if you can’t view this map.
The human-caused fire has forced thousands to evacuate, with more orders issued for new areas nearly each day as the fire grew.
“Mountain residents in this area, please heed evacuation warnings. Highway 38 south is closed and rocks are constantly falling on the road, physically blocking this escape route for you,” San Bernardino National Forest said in a Thursday update.
Here are the areas under mandatory evacuation orders:
- Oak Glen, Mountain Home Village and Forest Falls
- East of Bryant from Highway 38 to Yucaipa Boulevard, then east on the boulevard’s intersection with Bryant to Freemont Street, south to Grande View Drive, then along Ave E southeast to the intersection of Mesa Grande, east to Wildwood Canyon Road to include all areas of Hidden Meadows, and east to Edgar Canyon Road.
- The portion of the Cherry Valley Community that is north of Orchard Street to the County Line, and East of Nancy Avenue and west of Beaumont Avenue.
- All residents north of Valley of the Falls Drive along Highway 38 to Onyx Summit, including the Angelus Oaks, 7 Oaks and Jenks Lake Area. Those fleeing that area had to drive north to Big Bear because Highway 38 was impacted by fire.
All evacuation warnings and orders in Riverside County were lifted.
Those living in areas under evacuation warnings can voluntarily leave right away or stay and prepare to flee immediately if orders are issued. But residents who need additional time to evacuate, and those with pets and livestock should leave now, officials said. Here are the areas under warnings:
- East of Beaumont Avenue to Hillside Place in the Highland Springs area, north of Cherry Valley Boulevard to County Line Road.
- North of Oak Glen Road, west of Bryant, south of Highway 38, east of Garnet.
The Red Cross temporary evacuation point is at Redlands East Valley High School on 31000 E. Colton Ave. in Redlands. Residents can call the Red Cross for evacuation assistance at 442-242-0946.
- Highway 38 between Bryant Street in Yucaipa and Onyx Summit.
- Bryant Street Between Highway 38 and Carter Street.
- Oak Glen Road between Pine Bench Road and Cherry Croft Drive.
- Cross Streets East of Bryant Street Between Yucaipa Boulevard and Highway 38.
- Wildwood Canyon Drive between Mesa Grande and Oak Glen Road.