RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — A wildfire that forced the evacuation of at least 1,100 homes grew to 800 acres on Wednesday, fanned by gusty Santa Ana winds that pushed it through foothills east of Los Angeles.
Although no homes were in immediate danger, the homes were under mandatory evacuation and at least seven homes were closed because of smoke from the blaze at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains.
Leo Lemelin, 67, and his family busily loaded several cars with belongings as they prepared to leave.
“We’re trying to pack up everything we can into our cars from 45 years of marriage and eight grandchildren,” he told the Riverside Press-Enterprise (http://bit.ly/1ftmqok ).
More than 500 firefighters battled the flames just above residential developments in Rancho Cucamonga, a city of 165,000 people.
The fire was reported about 8 a.m., grew to 200 acres by noon, then quadrupled in size within a few hours as it roared through dry brush, fire officials said.
Gusts of 60 mph prevented firefighting helicopters from taking to the air, CalFire spokeswoman Liz Brown said.
“They are not able to get off the ground, so we are fighting this with ground resources right now,” she said.
Classes were canceled at Los Osos High School about an hour after the fire started.
“We’re evacuating cause there’s high winds and there’s a fire right up there,” student Shane McHale told KTTV, pointing to the mountains.
The fire erupted in the midst of a heat wave that sent Southern California temperatures soaring into the 90s in some areas.
Los Angeles International Airport recorded a high of 87 degrees, breaking the old record for the day of 86 that was set in 1996.
At Long Beach Airport, the high of 92 broke a 1996 record by two degrees.
Valley areas could see triple digits. High temperatures were expected through Saturday, with humidity in the single digits.
The heat was accompanied by winds gusting to 80 or 90 mph in some mountains and valleys, prompting the National Weather Service to issue red-flag warnings of extreme weather conditions into Thursday night.
Utilities reported about 8,000 people lost power because of wind-related problems such as downed power lines.
Severe winds at Ontario International Airport also caused some flights to be diverted to Los Angeles International Airport, City News Service reported.