Half a million acres of land was burnt to ashes after a series of wildfires stricken California. The aftermath of the wildfires led to the death of 100 million trees, about 6,938 fires occurred by December 11.
The Blue Cut Fire raging in San Bernardino County in Southern California has now scorched 30,000 acres, a big jump from 18,000 acres Tuesday night. By Wednesday morning, the fast-moving fire had 0 percent containment.
Firefighters were most concerned about the area between Lytle Creek and Lone Pine Canyon. A mandatory evacuation was ordered for all of Wrightwood, but officials said that only half of the community’s 4,500 residents had complied.
Officials estimated that more than 34,000 homes and some 82,000 people were under evacuation orders. Authorities could not say how many homes were destroyed in the fire, but they prepared communities for bad news.
“There will be a lot of families that come home to nothing,” San Bernardino County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig during a news conference.
After taking a morning flight over the fire zone, he described the fire scene as “devastating.”
“It hit hard. It hit fast. It hit with an intensity that we hadn’t seen before,” he said.
Some 1,300 firefighters were battling the blaze, which began Tuesday morning as a small brush fire above Devore and quickly exploded in size. Driven by dry brush and gusty conditions, the blaze led Gov. Jerry Brown to issue a state of emergency in the county.
The proclamation provides more state resources to firefighting efforts and grants certain benefits to affected residents, such as waiver of fees for destroyed documents and faster unemployment benefits.
In addition to Wrightwood, other areas under mandatory evacuation orders include Lone Pine Canyon, Phelan, Lytle Creek Canyon and West Oak Hills.
Early Wednesday morning, the California Highway Patrol announced the closure of eastbound California 138 at California 18, and eastbound Californa 2 at Big Pines Highway.
Those shutdowns came amid the several ongoing closures, including two sections of Interstate 15: northbound from Interstate 215 at Kenwood Avenue, as well as the southbound 15 from Ranchero Road to the 215. Vehicles were backed up on the 15 for about 3 miles near the closure. It was unknown when that freeway, a major thoroughfare between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, would reopen.
Crews in the fire zone on Wednesday are expected to face temperatures in the 90s, winds of 30-40 mph and humidity of 3-10 percent.
“We know we have the wind coming,” said Eric Sherwin of the San Bernardino County Fire Department. “We have red flag warnings that are posted for the mountain areas. We’re going to hit triple-digit temperatures up in the deserts, so it’s going to be a very aggressive attack from both sides of the fire from the firefighters.”
Cadaver dogs will be brought into the burn area Wednesday to search for the possible remains of people who may not have been able to escape the fast-moving blaze, according to the Fire Department.
Speaking at the news conference, county Sheriff John McMahon urged residents to heed evacuations orders for their own safety.
“When those officers ask you to leave, we would ask that you do leave and not shelter in place,” McMahon said. “We would hate for the fire to overrun your neighborhood and you be stuck inside and not have a way out.”