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Wrightwood residents pack up, get out of town

October 4, 2009 |  1:33 pm

As Wrightwood remained under mandatory evacuation, firefighters tried to box in the blaze on the eastern edge of the community using firebreaks.

Residents streamed down the mountain with their valuables tethered atop luggage racks on their cars or stacked in the back of pickups.

Among them were Brian Tinsley, 46, and his companion, Connie Audette, 48, who arrived in Wrightwood this morning after a 20-hour drive from Mount Vernon, Wash., at the same time authorities ordered the evacuation.

Tinsley had planned to clean up and paint a family cabin in Wrightwood. Instead, he wound up hastily gathering family photos and documents. Then he came up with a new strategy for the long drive home to Washington.

“I figure we’ll take our time and hit our favorite spots along the coast. Maybe do some fishing,” Tinsley said.

A block down state Highway 2, Betsy West, 34, was wrapping up the last lunch order of the day before locking up her Grizzly Cafe.

“If not for this particular order, we’d be out of here by now,” she said. “The Wrightwood Fire Department asked us to cook up a big batch of hamburgers and chocolate chip cookies.”

Before leaving town, many evacuees made a point of visiting the communal bulletin board in the parking lot of a hardware store for an update and to say goodbye to friends and neighbors.

At 12:30 p.m., the news was generally hopeful. Many noted that an hour earlier, flames were visible on the mountain ridges to the east and the skies were filled with black smoke. But now, the smoke had turned a more benign light gray and the howling winds of the day before had diminished to a gentle breeze.

-- Louis Sahagun in Wrightwood

Map600

Interactive map: San Bernardino County Sheep fire

Pano600

Photos: Fire in the San Gabriel Mountains
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