Residents speak out after 12,500-acre El Dorado Fire destroys home, kills dog and chickens; new evacuation order issued

Local news

Two Oak Glen-area residents who barely had time to evacuate their home as the El Dorado Fire raged on Tuesday are devastated after the blaze destroyed their home, and killed a dog and half a flock of chickens.

Lenie Humphrey knocked on Steve Gardner’s door at 5 a.m. Tuesday telling him they had to leave immediately.

They had to leave a Chihuahua and 20 chickens behind.

When they returned the next day, the animals had died and all they found was rubble and Gardner’s melted truck.

“That’s the devastating part,” Humphrey said. “I’m not going to try to replace it because I don’t know what my future will be. I basically have what I have on my body.”

Gardner said he only had time to grab a few belongings. His wedding ring was lost, but he later found it completely melted down.

“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.

He added that neighbors, and even strangers, have been helping him and Humphrey.

“My heart just is overwhelmed with the support I’ve had from all over, people that don’t even know me,” Gardner said.

He considers himself lucky. Just a few weeks ago, Gardner also narrowly escaped the Apple Fire as it raged nearby.

“I am alive, I thank God for that because this is twice where I might not have been,” he said.

GoFundMe pages have been set up to help both Gardner and Humphrey.

“Please pray for them and California,” read the page. “We need to band together more than ever.”

The El Dorado Fire started Saturday morning as a result of a gender reveal mishap at El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa. It grew to 12,474 acres, and containment was downgraded a percentage point to 18% containment, as of Wednesday night, officials said.

An additional evacuation warning was issued Tuesday night as Santa Ana winds were expected to fan the flames.

Crews worked overnight to extinguish flareups and hot spots as the winds spread flames to new areas and produced a lot of smoke, according to U.S. Forest Service’s InciWeb information site.

Wednesday night, firefighters planned to work with dozers in their continued effort to build up the containment line. Defensive burnout operations were possible along Oak Glen Road, including around structures, officials said.

A red flag warning was in effect until 8 p.m. Wednesday, as winds were forecast between 5 to 10 mph, with gusts of up to 15 mph.

Officials warned that the changing winds, dry conditions and hot weather would create a dangerous situation.

“The potential for a terrain driven fire with a rapid rate of spread remains a threat as wind direction and canyons get into alignment,” officials said on the InciWeb page.

Aerial crews also continued attacking active flames Wednesday, but aircraft could be grounded because of winds and poor visibility.

On Wednesday afternoon, Angelus Oaks and the Community of Seven Oaks was placed under an immediate evacuation order, according to the Yucaipa Police Department. Residents were asked to leave via Highway 38. Later, police tweeted that areas between Angelus Oaks and Onyx Summit were under evacuation orders.

Additionally, the following areas are under an evacuation order: Yucaipa Boulevard at Bryant intersection to the east, Yucaipa Boulevard to Ave E southeast to the intersection of Mesa Grande, east to Wildwood Canyon Road to include all portions of Hidden Meadows and the southern portion of the Cherry Valley Community from Nancy Lane east to Beaumont Avenue, including portions of Riverside County down to Orchard Street Oak Glen, Mountain Home Village, Forest Falls and North Bench Yucaipa (north of Oak Glen Road to Highway 38 and both sides of Bryant Street east and west, north of Oak Glen Road.

Residents in the area of Mentone and Yucaipa, as well as the areas north of Oak Glen Road, west of Bryant, south of Highway 38 and east of Garnet are under an evacuation warning.

The following roads remain closed:

  • Highway 38 is closed in both directions between Bryant Street and Angelus Oaks.
  • Oak Glen Road is closed at Bryant Street to eastbound traffic.
  • Wildwood Canyon Road is closed at Casa Blanca Avenue.
  • Topaz Street is closed at Bryant Street to eastbound traffic.
  • Juniper Avenue at Bryant Street.
  • Carter Street at Bryant Street.
  • Fir Avenue at Bryant Street.
  • Ivy Avenue at Bryant Street.
  • Northbound Fremont Street at Oak Glen Road.
  • Eastbound Oak Glen Road at northbound Cherry Croft Drive.
  • Eastbound Oak Glen Road at Casa Blanca Avenue
  • Lower Potato Canyon at Oak Glen Road.
  • Oak Glen Road at Wildwood Canyon Road.
  • Wildwood Canyon Road at Mesa Grande Rive
  • Pendleton Road is closed at Oak Glen Road.

The San Bernardino National Forest was among eight California national forest closed to the public Monday, in an unprecedented move aimed at reducing fire hazard and threat to lives.

Correction: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong location for the residents’ home, and an earlier headline described them incorrectly. The post has been updated.

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