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Wildfires Burning Across the State

Safety: Three blazes consume several homes and more than 7,000 acres, and force road closures, evacuations.

June 17, 2002|From Associated Press

A wildfire burned 600 acres of forest land Sunday and at least temporarily caused the closure of Interstate 15 in San Bernardino, fire officials said.

Meanwhile, fire officials expect to fully contain a wildfire that destroyed five homes and forced evacuations of 200 people in Lake Isabella by Tuesday.

And a wind-whipped, 3,000-acre forest fire forced the closure of U.S. 395 and the evacuation of about 100 homes Sunday in the Sierra resort community of Walker, about 90 miles south of Reno.

About 300 firefighters were dispatched about 3 p.m. Sunday to battle the blaze burning on both sides of the highway near Cajon Boulevard in San Bernardino.

Both northbound and southbound lanes of Interstate 15 were closed, and highway patrol officers were redirecting drivers to alternate routes, said Karen McKinley, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino National Forest.

The blaze was threatening a radio tower, but no other structures were threatened, McKinley added. There was no immediate estimate of containment.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, McKinley said.

The Lake Isabella blaze was at least 50% contained by Sunday afternoon. Firefighters faced hot weather and winds of up to 15 mph as they battled the fire that exploded from a few acres to 3,500 acres.

The fire, which started Saturday about 1 p.m., abated after sundown, and residents were allowed to return home at night, said Kern County Fire Department spokesman Chris Cagle.

The fire broke out in dry grass and brush near California 178 and Borel Canyon Road northeast of Bakersfield. The cause was under investigation, Cagle said.

Five homes and four vehicles, along with garages, a travel trailer, mobile home, five sheds, two boats and a barn were destroyed. Campgrounds in Keysville were evacuated as the fire moved into that area.

No other buildings were threatened.

On Saturday, Kern County sheriff's deputies enforced mandatory evacuations in parts of Bodfish and Lake Isabella. Residents gathered at the town's senior center, which was converted into a temporary shelter.

Air tankers and helicopters, along with 300 firefighters, battled the blaze.

Lake Isabella is a resort community of about 3,500 residents in the southern Sierra Nevada about 30 miles northeast of Bakersfield.

In Walker, Mono County Sheriff's Sgt. Boe Turner said some homes were burning late Sunday afternoon.

Fire officials could only confirm that three buildings, an outbuilding and a propane-storage area were on fire.

The fire was burning five miles southwest of Walker on Sunday morning, and was pushed quickly toward town by high, erratic winds, officials said.

The blaze broke out Saturday afternoon in the Toiyabe National Forest.

"The fire has really moved," said Laura Williams of the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center in Minden, Nev. "The winds got very fast and powerful and moved it right into town."

Turner said all homes west of U.S. 395 in Walker were evacuated around 3 p.m. Sunday. Homes east of the highway could be evacuated at any time, he said.

The highway, which runs through Walker, was closed from near the Nevada line to Bridgeport.

Turner said the fire was moving north and also threatening homes in nearby Coleville, where residents also faced evacuations.

A shelter for evacuees was set up at Antelope Valley Elementary School.

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