Crews on Monday were making progress against a 990-acre wildfire burning in the Angeles National Forest, officials said.
The blaze, dubbed the Sheep fire, sparked Saturday evening near Wrightwood in heavy dry vegetation and prompted evacuation orders in San Bernardino County.
It was 18% contained Monday afternoon, according to Angeles National Forest spokeswoman Dana Dierkes. Nearly 700 personnel were attacking the fire from the air and ground.
“We’re facing a challenging battle with heavy fuels, high and erratic winds and dry vegetation,” Dierkes said. “Our goal is to try to decrease the spread of the fire in multiple directions.”
Smoke from the fire was affecting air quality in some surrounding areas, the South Coast Air Quality Management District said.
Evacuation orders remained in place for multiple areas near the fire, including Highway 2 south to Lone Pine Canyon Road; Wright Mountain Road to Sheep Creek Drive; Desert Front Road and Wild Horse Canyon; and Highway 138 to Sand Canyon.
The rest of the community of Wrightwood was under an evacuation warning, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department said. Cellphone outages have also been reported in the area, and residents are being asked to limit calls.
An evacuation center has been set up at Serrano High School in Phelan. Animals can be taken to the Victorville Fairgrounds or the Devore Animal Shelter.
Dierkes said more than 300 people had been evacuated from the area.
“Our primary goal is to limit the rapid rates of spread into the north and into the desert communities,” she said. “And obviously, just in general, trying to limit the movement of the fire or fire perimeter.”
The fire ignited only days after Southern California fire officials warned residents that drought and extreme heat were creating conditions for a potentially treacherous fire season this year. A triple-digit heat wave blanketed much of California over the weekend.
“Given the fuel conditions, the fire conditions that we’re here talking about, I foresee a very tough four, five, six months in front of us,” Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy said Thursday.
Vegetation in some parts of the region is 40% drier than normal for the date, officials said.
News video of the Sheep fire showed intense fire activity, including towering flame lengths and thick clouds of swirling smoke as it ripped through dry brush.
Crews on Monday were in for a potentially challenging firefight as winds of up to 20 mph had developed in the area throughout the day, according to Mark Moede, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego.
“The fire creates its own weather and its own wind,” Moede said, “and the winds typically get a lot stronger in and around the fires, which makes it very difficult for firefighters to attack.”
However, as the day unfolded, crews benefited from some cooler temperatures and favorable conditions that allowed them to make progress on the flames, officials said in a video update.
Alison Hesterly, a public information officer with Cal Fire San Bernardino, described it as a “rapidly expanding incident” and said fixed and rotary-wing aircraft were attacking the fire from above while crews on the ground worked to lay containment lines.
“The terrain is very steep — it’s a bad area,” Hesterly said. She said the majority of the fuel, or vegetation, on the western side of Highway 2 doesn’t have any recent fire history, “so we’re talking about areas that haven’t burned in 20-plus years.”
The fire was burning primarily on Forest Service land, she said, and was moving in a northwesterly direction.
“They’re really focusing hard on the edges on the northwest side and the south end to secure those edges, to hope that the wind won’t blow the fire out of the containment lines,” she said. “That’s a huge focus for today — securing those high-risk areas with hose lines and hand lines.”
Meanwhile, crews on Monday contained another fire that ignited over the weekend, the Fish fire near Duarte. That blaze ignited Sunday at Brookridge and Mel Canyon roads.
It was fully contained by Monday afternoon, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.