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Firefighters gain upper hand on Oak Glen and Pendleton fires

September 1, 2009 |  5:45 pm


Firefighters gained the upper hand on the Oak Glen III and Pendleton fires Tuesday, thanks largely to an aggressive air assault and good weather.

"If it stays like this, I expect an easier day tomorrow," said Bill Peters, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.  "We may be able to release some of our resources."

The Pendleton fire has burned 850 acres and is 25% contained. The Oak Glen fire has burned 1,012 acres and is at least 40% contained.

The fires were static Tuesday, rarely showing themselves in the steep mountains and canyons around Yucaipa and nearby Oak Glen. Helicopters and planes, along with an army of firefighters, spent the day dousing hot spots.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger came to the fire command post in Yucaipa to make a plea for passage of a measure in the Legislature that would provide $100 million in firefighting money. He also declared a state of emergency for San Bernardino County. 

Peters said that if the weather remains favorable and firefighters continue making progress throughout the night, the mandatory evacuations for the community of Oak Glen and the Wildwood Canyon area of Yucaipa could be lifted soon.

"We want to get people back in their homes as soon as possible," he said.

It is unknown exactly how many people evacuated when advised to.

Firefighters were aided in their fight by higher humidity and relatively little wind. Thunder boomed overhead about 5 p.m. in Oak Glen followed by lightning strikes in the mountains.

-- David Kelly in Oak Glen

Photo: Along Oak Glen Road, in the shade of a sycamore tree, dozens of colored flags mark evidence where fire investigators believe the Oak Glen III fire started. Officials have yet to determine if arson was the cause. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times