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Cold weather helps with Sheep Fire

October 4, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Sheep Fire in Wrightwood is still only 20 percent contained, but the cold weather conditions are proving to be an asset in keeping the blazes under control.The fire is 20 percent contained and has burned more than 7,500 acres including at least three homes near the San Bernardino National Forest, near Wrightwood, where mandatory evacuations are still in effect.

It proved to be a difficult battle for crews in the front lines Sunday night, not because of the flames, but because of the bitter cold temperatures.

The good news is that major change in weather is finally giving crews the break they needed, but unfortunately, the damage has been done. Three homes have been lost and completely reduced to rubble.

Crews worked into the night cutting a line around the destructive blaze and battling to knock out the hot spots. They were fighting a dramatically different fire fight from 24 hours earlier thanks to a turn in the weather.

"The winds are down but still variable," says Jay Hausman of San Bernardino County fire.

"They're in our favor currently, and with the cold, the humidity goes way up andt hat makes the fire slow way down," adds Hausman.

Wicked winds up to 60 mph helped fuel the flames and it more than doubled in size within a matter of hours. The blaze blackened 7,500 acres and destroyed at least three homes.

Firefighters dug for smoldering embers in the ruins that the flames left behind in Swarthout Canyon. Fire officials are still tallying the damage as the massive flames continue to burn out of control in the San Bernardino National Forest.

The fierce flames forced Wrightwood's 4,000 residents from their homes.

"We've been up here for 25 years, and this is the first time we've had a whole town evacuated like this, and it's just unbelievable to see all this fire come in all at once," says Leo Hardyk of Wrightwood.

Fighting fire with fire, crews burned out brush ahead of the flames, cutting off the leading edge of the blaze. From above, crews engaged in an aerial assault of water and fire retardant as they fought to save this popular mountain community.

Residents are grateful that mother nature is finally deciding to cooperate.

"The wind was blowing like a sun of a gun, and it was not looking good. This afternoon, it wasn't looking good, but now it looks great," says Debby Gott of Wrightwood.

Crews want to make sure that the fire remains under control, and they hope to make substantial progress overnight.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. No injuries have been reported.

For more information on the fire, residents can call the U.S. Forest Service at (909) 383-5688. Residents can also call the San Bernardino County Fire Department at (909) 355-8800.

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