Rancho Cucamonga Fire Spreads Rapidly, Putting Thousands In Danger

A Rancho Cucamonga fire exploded in size on Wednesday, racing toward homes and threatening to grow even larger as wind gusts up to 80 mph push fueled its growth.

The fire expanded rapidly on Wednesday morning, growing from 20 acres when it was first reported after 8 am to more than 800 acres by midday. By late on Wednesday it had grown larger still, reaching roughly 1,000 acres.

Authorities said the fire is being pushed along by hot, dry conditions as well as the strong Santa Ana winds, allowing it to spread to the edges of Rancho Cucamonga.

Barbora Konecna, who lives in the path of the fire, said she packed her belongings just in time to escape.

"Any time they tell me it's time to go, I can get out of here. I don't want to be in anyone's way," she said. "With the wind going the way it is, you just don't know."

Konecna's was one of about 1,500 homes evacuated today in advance of the Rancho Cucamonga fire, with no estimate of when many might be able to return.

"I thought, 'Am I coming back here tomorrow?' " she said. "It's emotional, but as long as everybody's safe, we're OK."

The fire was being fought by close to 600 personnel under unified command between Rancho Cucamonga Fire, CAL FIRE and USFS. Authorities said the difficult conditions made the Rancho Cucamonga fire particularly difficult to fight.

"The big challenge on these fires is the wind and the unpredictability, and with winds like this we can't put up aircrafts. It's just too dangerous. So we try and figure out where it's going to end up and put our resources there," Bob Poole of the USFS said.

The Rancho Cucamonga fire was affecting even those outside the path of the flames. The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory for a large area stretching from San Bernardino and Riverside counties to eastern Los Angeles County.