California Wildfire Forces Evacuations East of Los Angeles
More than 1,600 people were forced from their homes on Wednesday as high winds kicked up a 1,000-acre wildfire in the suburb of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., about 40 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.
Unseasonably high temperatures near 100 degrees Fahrenheit and powerful, dry Santa Ana winds were blamed for the fast-moving fire, with gusting winds up to 100 mph keeping tanker planes and firefighting helicopters grounded for most of the day.
As of Thursday the blaze, dubbed the Etiwanda Fire, was 10% contained, according to the U.S. Forest Service, and mandatory evacuation orders had been lifted. But dangerous conditions – including wind gusts up to 45 mph – remained, making for a difficult situation for firefighters and threatening to make the situation worse ahead of the weekend.
“We anticipate a good day,” Ranco Cucamonga Fire Chief Mike Bell said on Thursday. “Hopefully nothing will happen.”
As of Wednesday evening no homes had been destroyed by the fire, with the only loss being a wooden fence behind a residence. That, of course, could change as the wildfire continues into its second day. An evacuation center is still in place at Central Park in Rancho Cucamonga, and animals are being accepted for care at the County Animal Shelter in Devore.
Carrie Adams with Kessler Alair Insurance Services in Rancho Cucamonga told PC360 on Thursday that, so far, her office has not yet received any claims related to the fire but they are reaching out to affected customers. It’s the upcoming fire season that really has Adams worried.
“It’s very dry,” she says. “We’ve had a very dry winter and not a lot of rain, so there’s a lot out there that could easily catch on fire. And the high winds can spread it for miles. We’re very concerned for the summer.”
Jordy Ortega with State Farm said that the scene in Rancho Cucamonga was still very active as of Thursday as the winds have been shifting and making things difficult for firefighters. Claims information was not yet available.
“It’s very fluid,” he says. “We’re right now focused on responding. We have been getting phone calls and we’ve got a tent in the area. Agents and claims representatives are very active at the moment.”
The California Department of Insurance reminded residents on Thursday that many homeowner policies cover additional living expenses in the case of disaster-related evacuation. This coverage typically includes food and housing costs, furniture rental, relocation, storage and added transportation expenses, depending on the policy.
Fire season kicks off
California's wildfire season has gotten off to a hot start in 2014, with the Etiwanda Fire near Rancho Cucamonga just one of the fires burning across the state this week. According to CAL FIRE, the San Lucas Fire has burned about 65 acres in Monterey County and is 75% contained as of Thursday. Both the 113-acre Bridges Fire in San Bernadino, near Rancho Cucamonga, and the 57-acre Van Buren Fire in Riverside County are at 100% containment at this time.
More than 600 wildfires have already torched 1,195 acres across the state so far in 2014, according to CAL FIRE, and expectations are for a dry, dangerous season. There have already been 436 more wildfires this year than at this time in 2013 and the state is on track for one of its driest years on record.