Monday, May 5, 2014

usfs: illegal campfire ignited $4M etiwanda blaze

Perimeter map of Etiwanda Fire burned area: Esri, USGS

Investigators believe an illegal campfire sparked the 2,190-acre Etiwanda Fire that roared out of Day Canyon last Wednesday on howling Santa Ana winds and prompted mandatory evacuation orders for residents of more than 1,600 homes in Rancho Cucamonga, a Forest Service spokesman announced Monday.

No arrests had been made and authorities were seeking help from the public.

The fire was first reported about 8 a.m. April 30 in the North Etiwanda Preserve area as erratic winds out of the northeast stoked the blaze and grounded firefighting aircraft. No homes sustained severe damage but a half-dozen schools were closed that day, more than 900 firefighters were called out, and three of them sustained minor injuries.

Here's the statement distributed May 5 by John Miller of the San Bernardino National Forest: 

Investigators have determined that the 2,190 acre Etiwanda Fire was started by an escaped illegal campfire.

Once conditions in Day Canyon were deemed safe, investigators hiked into the remote upper portion of the canyon, and located evidence of an illegal campfire. Investigators believe the illegal campfire may have been smoldering for a few days until the strong winds blew embers into nearby brush. Wood and charcoal fires are only permitted in designated campgrounds and picnic areas and never in the general forest area. 

Forest and fire officials are asking for the public’s assistance. If you observed any hikers, or persons in the area, during the week leading up to the fire, please call the WeTip Hotline at 800-472-7766 or submit the tip on-line at

 As of 5 p.m. Monday the Etiwanda Fire was considered 96 percent contained, according to the Fire Service. The estimated cost of fighting the fire and ensuring it's completely out was unclear. For more info see

Update 8 p.m.  The estimated cost of fighting the Etiwanda Fire as of Monday evening was $4 million, Carol Underhill of the forest's Front Country Ranger District said in an email.


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