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Fire officials cautiously optimistic in San Bernardino County

September 1, 2009 |  2:28 pm


Fire officials expressed cautious optimism today that they might be getting a handle on the Oak Glen and Yucaipa fires that have threatened thousands of homes.

"Right now it looks good, but we still have a lot of 'smokes' that need to be put out," said Cal Fire spokesman Bill Peters. "If we make it through the afternoon with no big winds, it will look good going into the night."

The fire slowed considerably this afternoon, with no visible flames in either Oak Glen or Yucaipa. Aerial assaults continued as pilots dropped 300 gallons of water at a time on smoldering hot spots or "smokes."

"Right now, we are not seeing an active fire," Peters said.

The Pendleton fire in Yucaipa started Monday afternoon and has burned 850 acres with 25% containment. The Oak Glen III blaze is 40% contained at 1,012 acres. One structure in Oak Glen was damaged, though officials could not identify what it was.

The entire town of Oak Glen has been evacuated. About 1,100 homes in Yucaipa's Wildwood Canyon were threatened. Mandatory evacuations were announced Monday but many people stayed.

That included the Miller family, which waited out the fire by baking chocolate chip cookies for firefighters.

Family members and friends drove down Pendleton Road, handing them out. One side of the road was neat and green while the other was a carpet of gray, smoldering ash with plumes of smoke rising in every direction.

"We stayed because we felt safe, but if the flames had hit those trees," said Steve Miller, pointing at a clump of trees on a hill, "we would have left."

His son Blake, 10, sat with individually wrapped bags of cookies -- 150 of them.

"We want to say thanks to the firefighters for putting out the fire and protecting our house," he said.

-- David Kelly in Yucaipa

Photo: From a lakeside dock in Yucaipa Regional Park, the McHenry family  cheers as a Sikorsky S64 Sky Crane firefighting helicopter goes "In the Dip" for another load of water Tuesday. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)