Wednesday, September 2, 2009

oak glen

Converted DC-10 over Pisgah Peak
6:50 p.m. Sunday Aug. 30 2009

By Guy McCarthy

Story reported, written and published Sunday Aug. 30 2009

OAK GLEN -- More than 100 Riverside County firefighters rushed today to a fast-moving wildfire just across the border in San Bernardino County that grew to 200 acres in dense chaparral and other brush, fire officials said.

The latest Southland wildfire forced the immediate mandatory evacuation of 300 residents and hundreds of tourists in the apple orchard mountain enclave of Oak Glen.

"They just evacuated us and I'm just heading out the door," said Kent Colby, 66, as he locked up at Law's Coffee Shop in the center of Oak Glen. "It really did take off fast. The whole parking lot is full of deputies. They used the loudspeakers and they went door to door."

The fire grew quickly to more than 200 acres after it was first reported at 1:45 p.m. near Potato Canyon Road and Oak Glen Road, according to Cal Fire public information officer Jason Meyer. The blaze was a few miles north of the Riverside County line.

"The most important thing is that everyone cooperate with law enforcement and public safety," Meyer said, speaking from a communications center in San Bernardino. "Everyone needs to make sure they get out of there so we can do what we have to do."

The evacuation extended to the entire town of Oak Glen, and it was mandatory, said San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Arden Wiltshire.

Potato Canyon Road is below most of the town's homes, rustic farm buildings and orchards, as well as some of the densest, oldest chaparral surrounding the town. Above Oak Glen stands densely forested Yucaipa Ridge, an area bordering the San Bernardino National Forest that has not burned in decades.

A half-dozen tanker planes were dropping retardant on the blaze while more than 25 engine crews were assigned to the attack. Many units were staging at Oak Glen Road and Bryant Street in Yucaipa, west of the fire.

"We've got decent flying conditions between here and the fire," said Ward Monroe, an air attack supervisor at the Forest Service Tanker Base at Norton Field in San Bernardino. "It's a bit hazy, but good visibility. Takes five or six minutes to fly from here."

Tanker turnaround times for landing and reloading retardant was 30 to 40 minutes, Monroe said.

The Martin Mars flying boat that has been stationed at Lake Elsinore was pulled off the Cottonwood Fire between Hemet and Idyllwild to make drops on the new fire in Oak Glen, said Forest Service information officer Robin Prince. An order had also been placed for the DC-10 tanker that made drops on the Station Fire above La Canada Flintridge and Altadena, Prince said.

Cal Fire-Riverside County units sent to the fire included six hand crews totaling about 80 firefighters, five engine crews with four firefighters to each engine and four chief officers, said Cal Fire-Riverside County Capt. Jenn Ricci.


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