California wildfires that began Wednesday morning in San Bernardino National Forest, close to the suburban Rancho Cucamonga, are continuing to cause problems. As of Thursday, 9 schools in California were closed due to smoke-based dangers caused by the wildfires. A mandatory evacuation of 1600 homes was also in effect. Only about 1000 people were successfully evacuated before the order was lifted.
According to Brian Grant, a California fire spokesman, the wildfires were about 53% contained in the foothills east of LA as of Thursday night.
“We had a few flare-ups throughout the day,” Grant said. “There’s still a lot of heat out there, just kind of underneath the bushes and down in the ground at the roots.”
There are more than 900 California firefighters working to clean up the remains of the wildfires. Although the flames have not moved over the night, they have still caused a significant amount of damage. Over 1627 acres of grass and other vegetation has been destroyed by the wildfires so far.
“There’s a lot of work to be done out there. It’s going to take days to take care of that,” Grant added.
The winds have been a difficult factor in attempting to control the wildfires. On Wednesday, gusts were approximately 70 mph. The wind actually kept firefighting aircrafts grounded. Only on Thursday were they finally able to launch a single aircraft to at least survey the scene.
As winds subsided on Thursday and into Friday, firefighters have become more affective against the raging wildfires. The National Weather Service predicted that the winds could be around 5 to 10 mph through Friday. Meaning that firefighters will only have to deal will a few gusts going up to 20 mph.
“We’ll get some battling winds,” Grant added.
Those battling winds could feed oxygen to the wildfires enough to cause flare-ups or spreading. Firefighters are preparing for the worst.
“The message is, ‘ready, set, go,'” according to Rancho Cucamonga, California, Fire Chief Mike Bell. “Be ready just in case something changes.”
Usually, California has around 500 wildfires flare up by May. This year, there’s already been upwards of 1000, and the actual start of the fire season is still considered a month away. Reports released by the California Forest Service and Interior Department say that the 2014 season for wildfires could wind up costing $400 million more to fight than they have in their budgets.
Firefighters will, of course, continue working, but it is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.