CORONA, Calif. (AP) — Southern California firefighters saved nearly 2,000 homes from a powerful wildfire that burned up to the edges of suburban canyon neighborhoods.
Crews hosed down blazing trees within a few feet of homes and one residence was damaged shifting winds sent flames away from neighborhoods in and around the city of Corona, which is southeast of Los Angeles.
More than 500 firefighters, aided by helicopters and planes, beat back the flames in mostly favorable conditions allowing for aggressive attacks on Tuesday, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Larry Kurtz said.
“We can play offense,” he said.
The fire was 15 percent contained, but some 1,900 structures were still threatened, authorities said.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, a fast-moving grass fire threatened about 50 buildings, including some homes, and prompted some evacuations. But fire crews quickly stopped its advance.
The 20-acre (80,000-square meter) fire in the Oakland Hills neighborhood of Oakland was about 50 percent contained.
At the height of the Southern California fire, flames climbed hillsides along a partially closed freeway. Schools were closed and at least 300 homes and 1,000 people remained under evacuation orders on Tuesday, Kurtz said.
“We have resources swarming the neighborhoods, constantly patrolling checking for hotspots,” he said. “We can’t afford to let one ember catch hold.”
Some firefighters were being taken by helicopter to mountain peaks, Kurtz said.
The fire sent up a huge plume of smoke and rained ash as it swiftly grew to more than 3 square miles (7 square kilometers) after starting early Monday afternoon.
Smoke drifted some 40 miles (64 kilometers) west to the ocean and authorities warned of potentially dangerous air quality.
Corona High School was set up as an evacuation center and cars streamed into the parking lot on Tuesday as donors brought fruit, fresh-baked cookies and fuzzy blankets along with water and first-aid supplies, the Los Angeles Times reported.
As the fire approached Monday, Joey Tu and his family fled their home in Corona’s Sierra del Oro neighborhood.
“It was far away, then suddenly it leaped toward us and boy, we knew what we had to do,” Tu, 48, told the Times.
Tu and his son and daughter tossed belongings into backpacks.
“We never knew it would spread so quickly. Then we saw ashes in our back and front yard and so my dad went for the computers and hard drives,” said Tu’s 9-year-old son, Kyle. “We were all panicking.”
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