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175 acres burned in Norco brush fire

September 22, 2009 6:33:17 AM PDT
A wind-driven wildfire has burned more than 175 acres in Riverside and Norco.The blaze broke out just after noon Tuesday off of Wentworth Drive in the La Sierra community of west Riverside, near the Hidden Valley Golf Club.

About 150 firefighters are battling the fire as strong Santa Ana winds coming from the north are pushing it south.

The wildfire had crossed into Norco and was approaching homes in the 3000 block of Vandermolen Drive. However, no buildings were threatened and there were no mandatory evacuations in effect.

Flames came within several hundred feet of homes along Vandermolen Drive, but precision drops by helitankers kept homes safe.

There were some tense moments for some Norco residents in the early afternoon as firefighters struggled from the air and on the ground to contain the fire. Riverside County Sheriff's deputies went door to door urging residents to leave.

Voluntary evacuations are in effect in the area of Vandermolen Drive, Valley Drive, Fresian Street and Cross Rail Lane in Norco. Residents are being evacuated to Ingalls Park.

"Next thing you know it's coming over my hill here, so we've been off loading a bunch of stuff, getting it all ready to go in case we have to," said Norco resident Steve Potts.

"I've got good confidence in these guys, you know what I mean? They look like they know what they're doing. They've got a lot of air support and everything else, so it shouldn't be too bad," added Potts.

So far crews have been able to keep the fire from burning any structures. There was a previous report that one home was damaged, but that has not been confirmed.

Airtankers and helitankers have been making drops along the hills to cut a line between the fire and the homes.

"Everything is there, that prescription for disaster -- very, very low humidity -- we already saw it a couple of weeks ago in Oak Glen, Yucaipa, the Station Fire ... all we need is that combination," said Bill Peters from Cal Fire. "But what we didn't see before is the driving winds. The driving winds are what really create the catastrophic fires in Southern California."

Firefighters appear to be getting the upper hand on the fire. Authorities say the fire was 60 percent contained Tuesday night.

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