Wind-driven mulch fire breaks out in Ontario, threatening structures

A man covers his nose and mouth against smoke
Adrian Vargas of Vargas Farms estimates he will loss 30% of his strawberry crop because of the wind-driven mulch fire in Ontario.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

A wind-driven fire broke out at a green-waste business in Ontario overnight, quickly chewing through massive piles of mulch and hay bales, authorities said Thursday.

The Ontario Fire Department arrived at the business between Euclid and Chino avenues around 1:20 a.m. to find the burning mulch.

Spurred by strong Santa Ana winds, the fire spread to around 50 piles of mulch and 200 bales of hay and spewed a smelly cloud of smoke across parts of Southern California, Battalion Chief Scot Roeber said.

Smoke surrounds piles of mulch and hay
A large wind-driven mulch fire burns Thursday in Ontario.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Firefighters were able to contain the fire to six acres by 8 a.m., but battling the blaze will “be a lengthy operation,” Roeber said.

Crews wrapped a hose around the fire’s perimeter while working to topple mulch piles as high as 25 feet, officials said. Around 50 firefighters from Rancho Cucamonga and San Bernardino as well as the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection are working with Ontario crews to battle the fire.

Two nearby commercial structures are still threatened, Roeber said, noting that steady 30-mph winds from the northeast could blow embers toward the buildings, which are about 100 feet west of the fire. The two structures are connected to dairy and farm businesses.

Smoke streamed from the agricultural area across neighborhoods in adjacent Chino on Thursday morning. No homes are currently threatened, officials said.

The National Weather Service predicted that strong winds would diminish by Thursday afternoon. One gust in Chino Hills around 5 a.m. was clocked at 49 mph, meteorologists said.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.