Lytle Creek: Evacuation orders remain in place after 700-acre South Fire destroys 4 homes

Friday, August 27, 2021
Evacs remain in place after brush fire destroys homes in Lytle Creek
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Crews appear to have gained the upper hand on a brush fire that burned some homes and at least 700 acres in San Bernardino County, but evacuation orders remained in place Thursday morning.

LYTLE CREEK, Calif. (KABC) -- Crews appear to have gained the upper hand on a brush fire that burned some homes and at least 700 acres in San Bernardino County, but evacuation orders remained in place Thursday morning.

The quick-moving brush fire erupted Wednesday afternoon in the area between Lytle Creek and Fontana near the 15 Freeway.

The so-called South Fire was reported shortly shortly after 1:30 p.m. and was burning amid light winds in an area west of the interstate and south of Lytle Creek Road. Though winds seem to have died down, greatly reducing the fire danger, the blaze remains 0% contained.

Several structures and parked vehicles were engulfed in flames, and residents were seen trying to rescue llamas and horses who were penned inside enclosed areas on ranch-like properties. Propane tanks were heard exploding.

Firefighters on the ground raced to douse flames and protect other homes as at least two tankers dropped water and Phos-Chek from overhead. At least four homes and 14 outbuildings were destroyed as 1,000 residents were under evacuation.

"We're not looking at lifting any evacuations anytime soon," Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service, said Thursday afternoon. "So folks need to stay out, for their safety and firefighters' safety."

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Tim Handman's property suffered significant damage. The trailer he called home was burned to the ground, as well as his garage, though most of the main house is still standing.

"It's scary enough but when you're prepared to move quick, you have to have that in your mindset to get out quick and you're not caught off guard," he said.

Handman says in his 60 plus years, a fire never got this close, and with a few more months of fire danger ahead, he's not expecting it to come this close again.

"It looks like everything burned, I don't know how it could burn again this year."

The San Bernardino County Fire Department initially said the blaze began when an excavator that was being operated in a backyard struck a rock, igniting sparks that spread to dry brush nearby. A fire department spokesperson later said there was no definite cause and an investigation is ongoing.

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"This is our second time of losing everything," said Tim Morrison, whose Lytle Creek home was in ashes, said with a wry chuckle. Seventeen years ago, his first home was demolished by a mudslide on Christmas morning, less than tw months after the Grand Prix Fire had spared it.

As the South Fire raced toward Morrison's home Wednesday afternoon, he said, he and his wife were once again left with only minutes to get out.

"I got her going, got her in her walker, got some clothes on her and got her out the back door about the time the skies turned black and the fire retardant fell on top of her," Morrison recalled. "And we got in the car and left."

On Thursday morning, he returned to see what he could salvage -- but all he found was the burned-out shell of the home he's rented since losing his first home.

An evacuation order was issued for Lytle Creek Road south of the Lytle Creek ranger station, west of Sierra Avenue, north of the 15 Freeway and east of Duncan Canyon to the foothills, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

Residents in all areas north of the ranger station were initially ordered to shelter in place, but an evacuation order was later issued.

An evacuation warning was issued for the area north of Glen Helen Parkway, east of Sierra Avenue and Lytle Creek Rd. west of the 15 Freeway.

An evacuation center for large animals was established at the Devore Animal Shelter, located at 19777 Shelter Way in San Bernardino.

MORE | Map shows riskiest areas in California for damaging wildfires

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