80,000 Evacuated As Wildfire Burns Through Southern California


A state of emergency has been declared for San Bernardino County in Southern California where a fast-moving fire that started Tuesday put more than 80,000 people under mandatory evacuation as it scorched some 30,000 acres.

As of Wednesday morning hundreds of homes have burned near El Cajon Pass, a mountain area east of Los Angeles. No casualties have been reported, but two out of the 700 firefighters now battling the flames suffered minor injuries after a group of firefighters were briefly trapped by ranging flames on Tuesday, the Daily Bulletin reported. After receiving treatment both firefighters returned to the fire line.

The so-called Blue Cut Fire is 0 percent contained and conditions in drought stricken California are not helping. High temperatures and winds have created fire tornadoes that television crews captured getting close to emergency personnel. Temperatures in San Bernardino are expected to be over 100 degrees Wednesday.

“Very dry, very warm air will remain in place through at least Thursday with relative humidity dropping to less than 20 percent in many areas threatened by the Blue Cut Fire,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Houk, said.


Multiple school districts and state roads are closed, including portions of Interstate 15, a major corridor that connects San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties to Nevada and Utah.

The Blue Cut Fire, which started at around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, has quickly become on of the most dramatic in recent times for the massive number of people forced to evacuate and how swiftly it moved across various San Bernardino mountain communities.

“This moved so fast,” Darren Dalton, 51, who evacuated from his home in the ski resort of Wrightwood along with his family, told the Associated Press. “It went from ‘have you heard there’s a fire?’ to ‘mandatory evacuation’ before you could take it all in.”

The Blue Cut Fire, one of nine wildfires now burning in California, is also sending toxic smog and particulate matter in the air that can easily spread as wind moves across the Southwest. Already there are reports of smoke reaching Las Vegas as winds went east Tuesday.

The fire comes as Southern California is having its worst smog in years with record-breaking heatwaves (last July was the hottest on record), and stagnant weather increasing the number of harmful air days and ozone pollution. Air quality hasn’t been this bad in the region since 2009, the Los Angeles Times reported last week.


Causes for the Blue Cut Fire are still unknown, but multiple studies have linked global warming to longer wildfire seasons. Just last month Harvard University and Yale University researchers published a watch list of hundreds of counties in the western U.S. that they say are at the highest risk of exposure to dangerous levels of pollution from the increasing wildfires.

The study found that wildfires fueled by climate change will likely make smoke waves to be longer, more intense, and more frequent. According to researchers, a smoke wave is two or more consecutive days of unhealthy levels of smoke from wildfires.

The team also found that between 2004 and 2009, about 57 million people in the western United States experienced a smoke wave. That figure is projected to climb to more than 82 million people between 2046 and 2051, according to the study.