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Wrightwood fire grows to 3,500 acres; three homes lost and more threatened

October 4, 2009 |  8:10 am


A fire in the San Gabriel Mountains has burned 3,500 acres, destroyed at least three houses and threatened hundreds more homes.

[Correction: An earlier version of this post said the fire was in the San Bernardino Mountains instead of the San Gabriels.]

Several remote canyon areas and a portion of Wrightwood were under mandatory evacuation, and the rest of Wrightwood was under voluntary evacuation. Fire officials said erratic winds were pushing the fire in several different directions through dense forest land, in some cases spotting a quarter of a mile ahead.

The Sheep fire is roughly burning between Lytle Creek Canyon and California 138. The mandatory evacuation include areas east of Heath Canyon and west of Heath Canyon between Lone Pine Canyon Road and California 2.

An evacuation center has been set up at Eisenhower High School in Rialto.

The blaze began about 2 p.m Saturday in the Lytle Creek area east of Mt. Baldy and west of the Cajon Pass. It spread rapidly northward, threatening ranches and truck farms, among other properties, said John Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.

More than 500 firefighters from the Forest Service and San Bernardino were deployed in an uphill effort to contain the flames. By this morning, the fire was only 10% contained.

Frustrating firefighters' efforts were wind gusts of up to 45 mph and extremely difficult terrain covered with chaparral and scattered timber.

"Whenever there is wind, there's trouble," Miller said.

Despite the winds, firefighters used four helicopters and nine air tankers to dump water on the fire. On the ground were 57 engines, four bulldozers and a hand crew. One firefighter suffered heat-related injuries, but the extent of his injuries was not clear, Miller said.

The three destroyed houses were in Swarthout Canyon, one of the areas where officials used reverse 911 calls and door-to-door visits to enforce a mandatory evacuation.

Also under evacuation orders were Applewhite, Happy Jack and areas east of Lytle Creek, including Mountain Lakes RV Park. People along California 138 between Interstate 15 and Hess Road also were asked to leave.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

-- Louis Sahagun in Wrightwood and Garrett Therolf

Photo: Fire crews prepare to light backfires along Lone Pine Canyon Road as they work to contain the Sheep fire this morning. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

More coverage:

The Times' map of the Sheep fire