Southern California wildfire 53 percent contained

A Southern California wildfire that forced more than 1,000 people from their homes was only smoldering on Thursday as gusty winds eased and fire crews were able to halfway surround it, fire officials said. The blaze east of Los Angeles in the foothills of the San Bernardino National Forest was 53 percent contained by nighttime, and there was no active flame, fire spokesman Brian Grant said.

The blaze began Wednesday morning and quickly surged through 1,627 acres of grass and chaparral, but it didn’t move at all overnight, Grant said.

On Thursday, more than 900 firefighters were busy mopping up the last remnants.

“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’s a lot of work to be done out there. It’s going to take days to take care of that,” he added.

Although humidity would remain very low, winds that fanned the fire north of Rancho Cucamonga continued to ease. The National Weather Service predicted they would be down to 5 to 10 mph through Friday, with a few gusts to 20 mph possible.

That was a far cry from the 70-mph gusts of Wednesday that propelled the flames through the foothills and sent up clouds of choking smoke that prompted a mandatory evacuation order for about 1,600 homes and closed several schools.

About 1,000 people actually left before the evacuation order was lifted.

The fierce gusts had grounded firefighting aircraft but on Thursday one plane went up to survey the fire scene. Others remained on standby at tanker bases.

Still, Grant said weather still would be a concern Friday.

The winds were expected to change direction several times through the period and they also could be variable in different parts of the fire area.

“We’ll get some battling winds … different in the canyons and the treetops,” Grant said.

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