By Mike Harris
Publisher and Editor
A combination of fires kept firefighters on edge since Halloween night, with the most recent fire in Rimforest Monday night, destroying two homes and threatening trees and other vegetation.
The largest fire was the Hillside Fire which destroyed six homes and damaged 18 more just off Highway 18 in the area of Lower Waterman Drive in San Bernardino. The fire burned roughly 200 acres.
The most recent fire occurred Monday night in Rimforest. County Fire officials said fire crews arrived to find the first home in the 1200 block of Scenic Way engulfed in flames, causing them to be concerned about fire spreading to surrounding vegetation.
Large embers from the fire quickly made their way into surrounding brush, causing an adjacent home to catch fire. Flames were so intense that a parked car on the first home’s parking deck was completely consumed.
County Fire spokesperson Ryan Vaccaro said both homes were large and “as fully involved as they could get.” The fires were under control by around 10:30 p.m., and firefighters remained on scene all night. Bear Springs Road was closed. There were no injuries. The fire is under investigation.
The other major fire threat occurred at the base of the hill early Halloween morning around 1:30 a.m. when County Fire crews were dispatched to a reported vegetation fire in the area of Lower Waterman Drive in San Bernardino.
Multiple callers from nearby neighborhoods also called in the fire, stating the fire was rapidly approaching their homes. Due to the proximity of the San Bernardino National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service sent a full response.
The first engine, County Fire ME227, arrived on scene within seven minutes of dispatch and found a one-acre, wind-driven vegetation fire with a rapid rate of spread. Winds in the area were gusting up to 70 mph, contributing to rapid fire growth and long-range spotting.
Within minutes, the fire was impacting and threatening homes in the area of 59th Street and Mayfield Ave. San Bernardino Police and fire crews completed evacuations to the immediate area due to the rapid fire growth and the fire immediately impacting homes. A mandatory evacuation was issued, evacuating approximately 1,000 residents.
Additional alarms, resources and prepositioned strike teams (five engines, with a leader) were immediately requested to respond to provide for life safety, structure protection and work on perimeter control. The morning sun brought additional ground and air resources to assist with structure defense, perimeter control and to assist with containment lines.
Ultimately, the fire burned roughly 200 acres. County Fire Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) Damage Assessment Team completed an inspection on 140 homes in the immediate area noting six homes destroyed and 18 damaged by the fire. Crews were successful in saving more than 100 homes in the area.
More than 500 firefighters, 55 engines, 11 hand crews, three bulldozers, four water tenders and a full complement of aircraft responded to the Hillside Fire. Crews remained on scene for multiple days to work on containment lines, completing mop-up and patrolling the fire’s edge. The fire’s cause and origin is under investigation by fire investigators.