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Planned Burn Goes Out of Control

A fire prescribed to thin brush south of Big Bear Lake quickly grows to 200 acres, forcing the evacuation of two ski resorts.

March 26, 2004|Louis Sahagun | Times Staff Writer

A prescribed burn went out of control south of Big Bear Lake on Thursday, growing from five acres to more than 200 acres within a few hours and prompting the evacuation of two ski areas, federal fire authorities said.

Firefighters in the San Bernardino National Forest originally hoped to benefit wildlife by creating open areas in thick brush.

The controlled burn also was supposed to give firefighters better access to any wildfires in the coming fire season, authorities said.

But the burn in a stand of manzanita and canyon live oak jumped its perimeter about 2 1/2 miles south of the city of Big Bear Lake and one mile north of California 38 about 2:40 p.m., said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Karen McKinley.

Nearby Snow Summit Ski Area and Bear Mountain Ski Resort were evacuated, McKinley said.

Firefighters fought the blaze with two helicopters, two air tankers, six fire crews, 10 engines and two water tenders.

The fire destroyed a 15-square-foot ski patrol shed as it climbed a slope where it eventually was slowed by snow, increasing humidity and diminished winds, McKinley said.

By nighttime, the fire had begun to "lay down" and was about 20% contained, according to a fire information officer for the San Bernardino National Forest.

Firefighters had no time estimate for full containment.

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