A fast-moving wildfire at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains destroyed two homes and burned more than 2,000 acres near the community of Mentone on Tuesday afternoon, forcing firefighters to evacuate several mountain neighborhoods before closing Highway 38 to Big Bear Lake.
The Emerald fire began in an orange grove shortly before 3 p.m., burning from 30 to 40 acres of grass before sweeping northeast into the San Bernardino National Forest, according to officials from the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Officials said the fire was moving northeast into the mountainous wilderness area north of Highway 38 after moving up a ridge to the Morton Peak fire lookout and down along Warm Springs Canyon.
Firefighters and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department officials evacuated about 50 homes and other structures near Highway 38 in Mountain Home Village, along Fish Hatchery Road and at a conference center and Christian camp known as Loch Leven.
Residents of one of the homes that burned Tuesday afternoon had been evacuated, said Arden Wilshire, a sheriff’s spokeswoman. Officials said they had no information about the second structure, which was destroyed Tuesday evening.
Pam Bierce, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Forest Service who was at the scene, said dropping temperatures were helping firefighters. Winds ranged from 12 to 15 mph as the fire burned through an area dominated by chaparral. She said firefighters hoped the fire would burn toward the site of an earlier blaze known as the Thurman fire, which would help firefighters contain it.
“We hope that’s going to act as a fuel break,” Bierce said.
Bierce said one state fire official was treated for chest pains and was taken to a hospital. Support vehicles were flooding into San Bernardino County to assist the more than 200 firefighters fighting the blaze. Shortly after the fire began, seven helicopter tankers, a number of air tankers, 20 engines and nine crews were on hand, fire officials said.
The cause of the Emerald fire was under investigation.
In northern Los Angeles County, firefighters working near Santa Clarita gained ground on a 565-acre wildfire in Placerita Canyon.
That blaze was 70% surrounded, with containment expected late Tuesday, said county fire Inspector Ron Haralson.
About 500 firefighters were searching for hotspots in the blackened hills and canyons about 30 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.
Several small, vacant commercial structures were destroyed in the blaze, and one firefighter suffered heat exhaustion. Residents of several closed streets were allowed to return home early Tuesday.
The cause of the blaze, which began Monday morning, was still under investigation.
A smaller fire in the Lake View Terrace area was contained in about an hour late Tuesday after burning half an acre of brush, authorities said.
The fire was reported about 3:45 p.m. near the Foothill Freeway and Paxton Street, said Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
No damage or injuries were reported, Humphrey said.
The National Weather Service said conditions would remain warm and dry through Thursday.
Times wire services were used in compiling this report.