Car fire near Big Bear unrelated to search causes major traffic jam
A car fire on Highway 330 in and out of Big Bear ski resort created a backup of ski-bound travelers that extended for miles down the mountain on Saturday morning, authorities said.
The fire was not related to the ongoing search for Christopher Jordan Dorner, the 33-year-old former Los Angeles police officer suspected of killing three people.
A Ford Explorer in the northbound lanes of the highway, roughly 25 miles south of Big Bear, burst into flames about 9 a.m., creating a significant backup in both directions, authorities said.
By 9:50 a.m., firefighters had extinguished the fire and a tow truck arrived on the scene to begin the process of removing the charred hulk to allow traffic to resume.
Thousands of travelers were on their way to enjoy the first significant snowstorm of the season at the resort, which left up to eight inches of snow on the mountain on Friday.
These travelers were undaunted by word of ongoing search for Dorner.
Law enforcement has been following tracks left in the snow and going door-to-door in search of the fugitive ex-cop.
The snow slowed the search but did not halt it, said Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. The aerial search was grounded overnight due to weather. The ground search also was suspended but resumed at 7 a.m. Saturday.
A media briefing scheduled for noon Saturday was canceled late Friday night.
Although following tracks led only to frustration Friday, authorities were relieved by the break in a week of extraordinary interconnected violence.
Police say that Dorner has killed three people and wounded two others in a campaign to take revenge on those he blamed for his dismissal from the LAPD four years ago. Investigators are scrutinizing a manifesto that they believe was published on Dorner's Facebook page.
In the screed, Dorner allegedly threatened unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" against police officers and their families, saying that he has no choice but to kill to reclaim his damaged reputation.
Police accuse him of killing the daughter of a retired LAPD captain and her fiance, who were found shot to death Sunday in a car in Irvine. Early Thursday, police said, Dorner shot three police officers, one fatally, in Riverside County.
With warnings on radio and TV that an armed and deadly fugitive remained at large, police spent hours chasing down bogus leads and erroneous sightings.
According to various tips, Dorner was reported to be driving a white Lexus near Barstow. He was spotted entering the county jail in downtown Los Angeles. He was holed up in a hotel in San Diego or in a park in Norco or at a home next to the Barona Indian Reservation in San Diego County. None of those leads checked out, and authorities are considering false reporting charges against one person who they believe is more prankster than tipster.
"When you're dealing with a case that's getting this amount of press coverage, you're going to get your share of bad information," said Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI, whose agents searched Dorner's home in Las Vegas and are investigating a package that CNN received, apparently from Dorner, that made various threats.Federal and local authorities also searched the home of his mother, Nancy Dorner, in La Palma, carrying out bags of potential evidence. The National Weather Service had predicted that temperatures would plunge to 16 degrees early Saturday, with the wind chill making it equivalent to 6 below zero.
-- Louis Sahagun, Phil Willon, Joseph Serna, Kenneth R. Weiss and Matt Stevens
Photo: Snow covers a law enforcement vehicle Friday in Big Bear. Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press.