Firefighter Josh Balboa monitors the Harris fire in southern San Diego County. Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times
Stuck in the car with the pets overnight
Green Valley Lake:
Judy Whitner, 39, was sleeping in her car late Monday afternoon as she awaited word about the home she bought about a month ago in the Green Valley Lake area, between Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear. That morning, she and her son, Jamie, 15, quickly gathered some photographs, their two dogs, a neighbor's cat and dog and some of their neighbors' belongings as firefighters swarmed their neighborhood to confront the flames that had already engulfed two homes.
She believed she'd be stuck sleeping in the car because of the animals, who were not permitted inside the shelter. Her son was staying with a friend at a motel.
It wouldn't surprise her to lose her new home.
"I still have boxes left in there," she said. "I haven't even finished unpacking."
"Just as quickly as I was hoping to move into my house, I guess the fire can move me out of it."
She's lived in the area since 1996, but this is the first home she's ever owned. During the last fire in the area, she panicked.
"This time around I'm taking a different approach. Whatever happens, I have no control."
Yvette Page, 43, and her extended family of eight fled from their Lake Arrowhead home after awakening at 5 a.m. to the smell of smoke and the glow of flames illuminating her windows. She said she screamed at the "top of my lungs" and everyone in the home -- including a pregnant daughter and grandchildren -- ran, grabbing only the family cat, five kittens and computer discs holding precious digital photos.
Her husband David, 47, and son-in-law James Gronley, who could not fit in the family car, volunteered to stay behind to look after the house. By late afternoon, Page had not been able to reach them and said she was extremely worried, even though David had vowed to leave should fire threaten their home, which was valued at $700,000, she said.
She and the rest of the family spent seven hours winding their way down the mountain, first directed to one shelter then another, finally ending up at a Red Cross shelter at the National Orange Show fairgrounds -- all still in their pajamas - at the National Orange Show Fairgrounds.
She was trying to reach her insurance company to determine if it would cover a stay in a motel or hotel. Page was having breathing problems and her pregnant daughter had fallen down the stairs at home in the early morning darkness. "I dont know if the fire was chasing us or if we were chasing it," said Page, with a bitter laugh. "Now that we're here safe it's just starting to sink in how scary the situation really could be."
About 700 people had registered at the shelter late afternoon. Most were from the Twin Lakes community near Lake Arrowhead. Red Cross officials said full capacity at the fairgrounds was 2,000. An animal shelter was also available and people were toting in dogs, cats and other pets. The refugees were largely calm despite worrying about their homes, and seemed resigned to potentially a long stay. Outside, children laughed and played even as an overlay of thick smoke enveloped the fairgrounds.
Officials in Lake Arrowhead say one of the announced evacuation centers, Highland Family YMCA at 7793 Central Ave. in Highland, is too small, and they are asking evacuees to go instead to the National Orange Show Fairgrounds. Those who show up at the YMCA are being rerouted and given directions to the fairgrounds, said YMCA manager Michael Romero.
Homes destroyed in Green Valley and North Lake Arrowhead
Two rapidly growing fires have destroyed homes and are threatening close to 2,000 other residences in the San Bernardino Mountains near the area of Green Valley Lake and Lake Arrowhead, fire officials said this morning.
The Grass Valley fire erupted at 5 a.m. and the Slide fire at 8:30, both driven by winds in excess of 30 mph. A U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman said homes in Green Valley and North Lake Arrowhead had been destroyed, but she didn't have an exact number or location.
Fifteen hundred homes were threatened in north Lake Arrowhead and 400 in Green Valley, spokeswoman Carol Beckley said. The fire was moving southeast in heavy timber.
"It's not looking good right now," she said.
The two fires together had taken 400 acres and were not even partially contained. Mandatory evacuations were in effect for Running Springs, Arrowbear, Deer Lodge and Green Valley.
Animals were being taken to the Devore Animal Shelter.
Voluntary evacuations were in place for Twin Peaks, Rim Forest, Cedar Glen and Lake Arrowhead.
Evacuation centers had been set up at the Jerry Lewis Center at 7793 Central Ave. in Highland and at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 3860 N. Waterman Drive in San Bernardino.
An unknown number of homes were burning in north Lake Arrowhead, and authorities had evacuated hundreds of people, San Bernardino county fire officials said. At least 1,500 homes were in the path of the fire. Voluntary evacuations were underway in the communities of Cedar Glen, Twin Peaks and Rim Forest.
The blaze, dubbed the Grass Valley fire, started about 5 a.m. today in the Grass Valley Creek area of the San Bernardino Mountains and was pushed west by high winds. It quickly grew, charring more than 400 acres by late morning.