Two fires of suspicious origin erupted in the Diamond Bar area near Pomona Friday, one of them forcing the evacuation of more than 100 residents as flames swept to within a few yards of 30 ridgeline homes.
The winds suddenly shifted, however, enabling two Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopters to make effective water drops as 350 firefighters from Los Angeles and Orange counties moved in to contain the fire after it had burned about 300 acres.
“Everything just fell right in the slot for us,” said Los Angeles County Battalion Chief Gordon Pearson.
The bigger fire broke out in Tonner Canyon near a Boy Scout reservation at about 12:30 p.m. and swept uphill to threaten a line of $700,000 homes along Wagon Train Lane in a gated equestrian area. Many residents raced to get valuable horses out of the neighborhood.
Bonnie Peralez was horseback riding in the canyon with Doris Lair when the fire broke out.
“I couldn’t believe how fast it moved,” she said. “Within 60 seconds, it (the brush and trees) just went up. I looked over my shoulder, and there was a big wall of flames.”
Lair said: “I didn’t have time to do anything. I just galloped home. I grabbed our seven horses and we were gone. . . . That was the scariest day of our lives, to see that wall of flame. . . .”
The Tonner Canyon fire broke out just a 30 minutes after another blaze burned about 25 acres of brush near the Diamond Bar Golf Course, a short distance to the north. No homes were damaged or threatened by that fire as firefighters quickly suppressed it.
Pearson said sheriff’s arson investigators were looking into both fires.
In the Rancho Cucamonga area of San Bernardino County, meanwhile, more than 10,600 acres had been blackened by flames that may have been started by an arsonist west of Cajon Pass, authorities said. But whipping Santa Ana winds had subsided and the fire was 65% contained.
Although about 250 homes on the northern fringes of Rancho Cucamonga and Etiwanda were threatened early Thursday, the flames were burning back up into the mountains and destroying only brush and trees.
There had been eight minor injuries--all but one to firefighters. A house, a chicken shed and some beehives were lost.
Karen McKinley, fire information officer for the San Bernardino County Fire Department, said about 1,400 firefighters were on the lines in 100-degree heat, but at midafternoon on Friday, “we are starting to cut back.”
“Things look good and we don’t see any real problems,” she said.