SAN BERNARDINO — Winds gusting 40 m.p.h. to 50 m.p.h. Monday whipped house and brush fires in Orange County and elsewhere in the Southland, rousting residents from a Westminster apartment complex and forcing the evacuation of Cal State San Bernardino.
About 6,000 students, faculty and staff went home at midmorning because of smoke from a fire that skirted the northern edge of the campus and scorched 125 acres of brush. It was blamed on downed power lines, said Tom Rubio, a spokesman for the San Bernardino City Fire Department.
The high winds forced the recall of a firefighting airplane after it had made just two fire-retardant drops on the blaze, but a pair of water-dropping helicopters finished the job along with 100 firefighters, Rubio said.
The fire continued to spread toward a nearby residential neighborhood, but firefighters--and shifting winds--stopped its advance, Rubio said. Flames came within several hundred feet of some homes.
In central Orange County, where the winds here were strongest, a palm tree fell against electrical wires at 8:50 a.m. in Westminster, sparking a blaze in an apartment complex and prompting the evacuation of about 100 people near Golden West Street and Golden Nugget Circle. About 50 firefighters battled that fire as it spread to two units. It was controlled within 20 minutes, but two extra engines were sent to guard against wind-swept embers igniting.
"We would not have done that if the wind had not been as strong as it is," Battalion Chief Don Hayden said.
In Chino Hills, a 110-acre brush fire near a former munitions plant was contained four hours after it erupted Monday morning. About 100 firefighters, aided by four water-dropping helicopters and two Super Scooper airplanes, fought that blaze, which caused no structural damage or injuries. About 24 Orange County firefighters were sent to Chino to help fight the fire. And a brush fire in rough terrain near Cabazon was contained Monday after burning about 660 acres since Saturday evening. More than 500 firefighters were assigned to the Cabazon blaze, which caused no damage to structures.
The causes of the Cabazon and Chino Hills fires were under investigation.
A smaller fire burned two acres near Estancia High School on Placentia Avenue in Costa Mesa. Seventeen firefighters extinguished the blaze that began in a bamboo stand several yards behind the school at 3:30 p.m. It was contained within about 40 minutes and is being investigated as suspicious.
Two hours later, a brush fire in San Clemente swept through five acres near Avenida Pico and El Camino Real, sending burning embers onto a nearby mobile home park and church.
Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Dan Young said 15 fire engines, two hand crews and two helicopters contained the fire after about an hour and a half.
"Luckily, this area had the least amount of winds throughout the county," Young said. "It was a fairly safe place.
Fire units patrolled the mobile home park throughout the night for any hot spots.
Times staff writer Lily Dizon contributed to this story