Strong, erratic winds continued to push the Sheep Fire through dry brush Sunday afternoon, forcing firefighters to issue an evacuation order for Wrightwood and surrounding areas.
A total of 300 people were evacuated from near the blaze on Sunday, according to unified command agencies San Bernardino County Fire, Cal Fire and the Angeles National Forest.
The blaze began Saturday evening and had spread to 939 acres by Monday afternoon, with 5% containment, firefighters reported.
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There are 673 firefighters on the fire, which officials say has been particularly difficult to battle due to dense vegetation, steep terrain and windy conditions.
By Monday morning, the fire had grown to 164 acres, with mandatory evacuation orders overnight for all of Wrightwood and Desert Front Road and Wild Horse Canyon, Highway 2 south to Lone Pine Canyon Road and Wright Mountain Road to Sheep Creek Drive.
At a fire service briefing on Monday morning, the SBC fire chief reported that the containment of the fire was looking good, with slightly better fire conditions expected.
Fires and road closures
Ground firefighters continue to work along the perimeter of the blaze, with multiple engines, aircraft and other resources on scene and some night flying operations reported.
Cal Fire reported that no one was injured in the blaze and no structures were destroyed or immediately threatened.
With internet and cell phone outages reported in the area Sunday night, law enforcement went door to door announcing a mandatory evacuation for Desert Front Road and Wild Horse Canyon.
The SBC Department of Public Works has reported the temporary closure of Lone Pine Canyon Road at Highway 138 due to fire activity with no scheduled time for reopening. Visit Caltrans at https://roads.dot.ca.gov.
Red Cross volunteers operate an evacuation center at Serrano High School at 9292 Sheep Creek Road in Phelan, northeast of the fire.
On Sunday evening, Red Cross officials said two people were staying at the evacuation centre, with a handful more planning to leave.
The Devore Animal Shelter at 19777 Shelter Way in San Bernardino accommodates small animals and livestock, SBC Animal Care and Control officials reported.
The San Bernardino County Fairgrounds opened Sunday night to receive large animals. Residents should call 800-472-5609 for assistance prior to arrival.
SBC Fair CEO and Managing Director Jennifer Morgan told the Daily Press that as of 7am on Monday, no animals had arrived at the fair grounds.
“I’m going back to the fairgrounds this afternoon to see if we have any animals,” Morgan said. “The good thing is that we just finished the fair, so we are prepared, cleaned up and ready for anything.”
For evacuation orders and specific warnings, follow the SBC Sheriff’s Twitter site @sbcountysheriff.
The National Weather Service reported that the Wrightwood area will remain windy in the afternoon, with gusts of up to 20 to 25 mph.
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NWS meteorologist Adam Roser said the gusty winds, coupled with humidity up to around 25%, result in “high to near critical fire problems”.
According to an NWS report, in the San Bernardino Mountains on Sunday, gusts of 45 mph were recorded at Cajon Junction and Cajon Summit. The highest gust recorded at Wrightwood came in at 37 mph.
For nearly two days, Ralph Finley, 65, spent much of his time on his porch wondering if the Sheep Fire would be heading his way.
“I’m ready to walk away from whatever fire comes my way,” said Finley, whose property is near Highway 138. “My truck is loaded with food, water, clothing and other equipment.”
Los Angeles County Animal Control volunteer Misty Vivirto told the Daily Press that she spent $300 on gasoline on four trips to save 14 cats, six horses and numerous chickens, ducks and goats from the evacuation area.
Hemet’s Ashley Cockroft came from San Bernardino to help Phelan resident Nathan Johnston unload Charlene Slaten’s sheep, which she was forced to abandon along with goats, horses and 14 dogs.
Slaten, who operates a dog and horse rescue, said Nate Johnston of the Disaster Animal Relocation Team was able to retrieve the rest of his animals.
Asked about her house, Slaten replied, “I have no idea” and that someone from DART told her that her house was still intact.
At 6:36 p.m. Saturday, a fire was reported to Angeles National Forest Dispatch by SBC Fire. The fire was initially reported to be about a quarter acre in size.
Firefighting units quickly rushed to the scene, and about an hour later the fire was reported to be about 30 acres and spreading.
At that time, nearly 200 firefighters were assigned to the fire, fueled by heavy fuel oil and dry vegetation.
Fire officials reported the fire moving away from nearby Wrightwood and north toward High Desert.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Daily Press reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz can be reached at 760-951-6227 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz