Six homes burn in windy San Bernardino

Lodi News-Sentinel - - STATE - By Ruben Vives, Han­nah Fry and Jen­nifer Lu

LOS AN­GE­LES — Fierce winds that whipped up early Thurs­day sparked new fires across South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, in­clud­ing a de­struc­tive blaze that tore into neigh­bor­hoods in north San Bernardino, con­sum­ing homes and forc­ing res­i­dents to evac­u­ate be­fore dawn.

The Hill­side fire erupted about 1:40 a.m. above San Bernardino near High­way 18 at Lower Water­man Canyon and took off, quickly burn­ing down­hill into neigh­bor­hoods as au­thor­i­ties rushed to awaken and evac­u­ate res­i­dents. The blaze has con­sumed 200 acres and has burned six homes, San Bernardino County Fire­fighter Chris Prater said.

The fast-mov­ing fire prompted manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­ders for about 500 homes, af­fect­ing roughly 1,300 res­i­dents. One fire­fighter was hos­pi­tal­ized for smoke in­hala­tion, but no other in­jures were re­ported.

As po­lice and fire­fight­ers were evac­u­at­ing neigh­bor­hoods early Thurs­day, some res­i­dents re­fused to leave their homes against of­fi­cials’ ad­vice.

“Stay vig­i­lant, please. You don’t see the wind blow­ing re­ally hard right now where we’re at, but you go up on the hills and it’s very er­ratic,” said Kathleen Opliger, in­ci­dent com­man­der for the Fire De­part­ment. “The fire has moved so fast ... that if folks don’t evac­u­ate when we ask them to, it’ll be very dif­fi­cult to get them out when the fire is mov­ing to­ward homes.”

By late morn­ing fire­fight­ers had knocked down ac­tive flames burn­ing in the area and had be­gun to gain con­trol of the blaze. The cause of the fire, which is 1% con­tained, is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. How­ever, fire of­fi­cials said they’ve de­ter­mined there are no power lines in the area where they be­lieve the blaze erupted.

Video footage from the scene taken early Thurs­day showed waves of em­bers fly­ing onto res­i­den­tial streets, ig­nit­ing palm trees and set­ting homes ablaze. Fire­fight­ers doused wa­ter on two homes on Saturn Court as they burned in the early morn­ing hours, but they ap­peared to sus­tain sig­nif­i­cant dam­age.

Tony Marzullo, 59, said screams from his neigh­bor across the street jolted him awake about 2 a.m. “Fire! Fire!” she yelled. Out­side, the hill­sides were burn­ing, winds were gust­ing and yards were catch­ing fire as em­bers landed on the ground. Marzullo, his son and sonin-law im­me­di­ately got to work. They helped neigh­bors out of their homes and drove cars sit­ting in drive­ways to a nearby church after peo­ple had fled. They grabbed gar­den hoses and tried to douse what­ever flames they could.

“Those winds were treach­er­ous,” Marzullo said. “The winds here blow in ev­ery di­rec­tion.”

The winds that sweep through San Bernardino are as fa­mil­iar as the hill­sides that are a back­drop for more than a dozen homes along Viento Way, named after the Span­ish word for “wind.”

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