'Bluecut' Fire now 85 percent contained; all evacuation orders lifted

All mandatory evacuation orders were lifted Sunday for residents affected by a massive San Bernardino County wildfire that drove thousands from their homes.

Approximately 82,000 people ordered to leave their properties Tuesday when the fire broke out 60 miles east of Los Angeles have now been permitted to return.

Most of those residents are returning to find their homes intact, though not all. A preliminary damage assessment found 105 homes and 216 outbuildings destroyed.

"This fire did not go through a dense community, like some fires do," fire spokesman Costa Dillon said Sunday. "Almost all of this area is sparsely populated."

Residents in the Lytle Creek area were being allowed back to their homes with proof of residence.

The once-fast moving blaze that burned nearly 58 square miles was 83 percent contained Sunday morning, up from 73 percent the evening before. Firefighters were going property-to-property in the areas most heavily hit.

"You don't want somebody to come back to a neighborhood where a fire could suddenly flare up on the property next door from something still smoldering," Dillon said.

Authorities said some structures were burned in the Lytle Creek area that residents will be returning to, though the exact number of destroyed buildings was not immediately available.

Fire officials briefed residents at an evacuation center Sunday morning at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds where about 15 residents remained. Dillon said the residents were "very pleased" to know the Lytle Creek area was open and that those still under evacuation orders were being patient.

A prolonged drought has transformed swaths of California into tinderboxes, ready to ignite. Six other wildfires were burning in the state, including one in San Luis Obispo County that forced the closure of the historic Hearst Castle on Saturday. It remained closed Sunday.

That fire grew to nearly 38 square miles overnight into Sunday morning and remained 35 percent contained. Fire spokeswoman Jaime Garrett said the fire was growing in the opposite direction of the Hearst Castle. The castle is a popular tourist attraction and houses a large art collection that belonged to media magnate William Randolph Hearst.

In rural Santa Barbara County, a 15-square-mile wildfire forced the evacuation of two campgrounds.

In the southern Sierra Nevada, another blaze feeding on dense timber in Sequoia National Forest forced the evacuation of several tiny hamlets.

In Northern California, fire crews were gaining control Sunday on an arson fire that destroyed 189 homes. Officials said the 6-square-mile fire in Lower Lake was 95 percent contained.

A nearly monthlong blaze burning near California's scene Big Sur is not expected to be fully contained until the end of September. Cal Fire said the fire has destroyed 57 homes and charred 133 square miles. It is 60 percent contained.

Evacuations as of Sunday:

Effective Sunday, August 21st, at 4:00 p.m., the evacuation orders for Wrightwood, Swarthout Canyon, Lone Pine Canyon, West Cajon Valley and Lytle Creek have all been lifted. RESIDENTS ONLY will be allowed past the road closures (with proof of address).

Evacuation centers:

The San Bernardino County Fairgrounds in Victorville continues to provide services to residents and their pets.
Jessie Turner Community Center Shelter remains open for Blue Cut Fire evacuees.

Animal evacuation shelters:

Apple Valley Animal Shelter (small animals)
22131 Powhatan Road
Apple Valley, CA 92308

San Bernardino County Fairgrounds
14800 7th Street
Victorville, CA 92395

Devore Animal Shelter (small animals)
19777 Shelter Valley
San Bernardino, CA

Road closures as of Sunday:

  • Highway 138 is open to residents only from Hwy 2 to Stone Basin Road.
  • Hwy 138 at Stone Basin Road to Interstate 15 is closed to allow emergency equipment in the area to replace power poles affected by the fire.
  • Lone Pine Canyon Road at Swarthout Canyon Road to Hwy 138 is closed.
  • US Forest Road 3N31 at Lone Pine Canyon Road is closed.
  • The dirt road portion of Lytle Creek Road is closed from the gun range into the forest.
Further information: Information Call Center (909) 383-5688 or http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4962
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