Little Mountain fire: 9 San Bernardino homes damaged as containment reaches 80 percent

ByRachel Brown, Rob McMillan, and staff via KABC logo
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Little Mountain fire 80 percent contained
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Officials say the wind-driven fire that scorched at least 17 acres and damaged nine homes in the Little Mountain area was 80 percent contained.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- Officials say the wind-driven fire that scorched at least 17 acres and damaged nine homes in the Little Mountain area was 80 percent contained Tuesday.

An investigation continues into what sparked the blaze, but witnesses said they saw several children playing with fireworks before the vegetation fire erupted.

The San Bernardino County Fire Department said there are a number of homeless encampments in the area, and they're also looking into a photograph of several children seen fleeing the area near the fire's point of origin.

"We are aware of that photo, the investigation is ongoing. The investigators are in possession of that photo, and that's one of the things they'll be looking into," said Eric Sherwin of San Bernardino County Fire.

Several residents were evacuated after high winds fueled the blaze near West 39th Street and North Severance Avenue around 5 p.m. Monday, according to the San Bernardino County Fire Department. Evacuation orders have since been lifted.

Fred Shorett has lived in the San Bernardino neighborhood for 31 years and has seen three major fires erupt near his backyard. But this time, the fast-moving flames reached his house.

"I had water on it, so it was really dramatic in terms of flames or anything like that," he said. "Over there, that one part, the back of that house was really engulfed and it was pretty dramatic."

"The smoke was too thick. I couldn't make it out, and I was just screaming and crying because my mom had just passed away a week and a half ago, and I just told my mom to take care of my house and I promise I'll be OK," said Jacob Calderilla.

Calderilla said he's OK, but many of his neighbors lost practically everything.

Footage from AIR7HD showed trees and smoke blowing sideways as the blaze burned.

Two firefighter were injured, including one who sustained moderated injuries and was treated at a local hospital. Four children were rescued from a house that was later reduced to rubble, and a woman in her 90s who lived across the street was also rescued as flames raced up the mountain. Five people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation, including a family of four who also suffered minor burns after getting caught by the fire as they evacuated.

Some residents returned to their homes to find their cars melted and charred.

"I was shocked, because it was just like, 'Oh my god, our backyard's on fire!'" one homeowner said. "And then, of course, we're watching it and I'm just pacing back and forth, freaking out. I tried to call our neighbors across the street. Of course they didn't answer because they were putting their backyard out."

The fire forced families to only take the essentials with them.

"Came back last night and the embers were still burning across the street, but we asked and begged could we go get our dog and they said yes," she said.

Southern California Edison, which had warned of possible safety outages at any time, announced Monday evening that none would take place in the next 48 hours but warned that it was monitoring the weather.

Earlier in the day, firefighters beat back a rapidly growing blaze that raced up canyon walls toward multimillion-dollar ocean-view homes on a coastal ridge of Pacific Palisades.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.