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article imageForest fire spreads in Big Bear, California Special

By Lonna Lisa Williams     Aug 23, 2015 in World
Big Bear Lake - A forest fire began in the mountain town of Big Bear, California at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 23. It rapidly spread eastward, covering more than 10 acres by 3:00 p.m. Parts of the 7000-foot high popular tourist and residential town are being evacuated.
"A human most likely started this," said Pastor Mike Fulmer of Calvary Chapel Big Bear, which is located just beneath the forest fire that began at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 23 and began rapidly spreading eastward through the tall forest pines, swept by a strong westward wind. I interviewed Pastor Fulmer at the annual church picnic and baptism at Cedar Lake, high above Big Bear, where we could look down at the ominous smoke. "It was probably an illegal campfire," Pastor Fulmer added. I was thinking maybe it was arson but could not confirm that.
"The sheriff just told me that we should all leave the picnic area now instead of at 5:00. They don't want people stuck up here if the fire comes this way. Parts of Big Bear have already been evacuated, including areas by our church, Big Bear Village, and the Middle School."
I had filmed the fire when it first began in the forest above Knight Road, at 1:30, half an hour after it started. Then I drove to the church picnic and returned at 3:20 to Big Bear Village where I was surprised to see smoke so close to the tourist shops and Calvary Chapel. I drove further down Big Bear Blvd. to an area near Snow Summit, to film the eastern edge of the rapidly-spreading flames. Police had already begun putting up blockades at the bottoms of streets that sloped upward toward the mountain wildfire.
I stopped at Stater Brothers Shopping Center and took photos of airplanes and helicopters dropping water and flame retardant through the plume of orange smoke. Local residents mingled with tourists, taking videos and muttering, "Oh, my God!"
The Sun newspaper of San Bernardino is reporting that the "Summit Fire," now 85 acres big, is threatening Snow Summit Ski Resort and 500 homes, forcing mandatory evacuations. It also reported that at 4:50 p.m. the fire was only 10% contained. According to Los Angeles news station KTLA at 6:00 p.m., the fire began at Snow Summit at 12:25 p.m. and now covers 100 acres.
I can still hear airplanes and helicopters battle the fire in the distance as I write from my Big Bear cabin. I can see the smoke. I wonder if firefighters are beginning to contain the wildfire. The smell of smoke filters strongly into my windows. I will upload my best video and photos and investigate further, driving into town, toward the flames—as far as the sheriff will let me drive. I will get out and try not to be run over by a firetruck or tourist as I video the blaze.
Reporter's Update: I sprinkled a scarf with water, covered half my face, and trudged back out toward the fire at 7:00 p.m. I took photos of its eastern edge; firefighters and their trucks; T.V. news crews; and the Emergency Base Camp. Chon Bribiescas, the Public Information Officer for the U.S. Forest Service, told me that, by 8:00 p.m., the fire was 30% contained at 100 acres. It had moved higher up the mountain ridge but still edged closer to Snow Summit Ski Resort. "Mandatory evacuation is in effect for houses south of Pennsylvania Road between Knickerbocker and Georgia, with voluntary evacuation extending toward Snow Summit," he advised. He added that flight operations had stopped for the night, and the fire had calmed down with the evening's cooler temperatures and higher humidity.
"The weather forecast calls for thunderstorms tomorrow and wind coming up from the south. That could push the fire back down toward houses in Big Bear. We have a new battle to face in the morning, and our helicopters and planes will be back in the air," Bribiescas said.
As I walked back toward my parked car, exhausted and smelling like smoke, I passed a line of fire trucks that had come from outlying areas around the San Bernardino Mountains: Idyllwild, Palm Springs, Riverside . . . These firefighters would spend the night, grabbing sandwiches and coffee from the Base Camp, keeping watch, resting a little, ready to fight the flames tomorrow.
Reporter's Update 2: By Monday afternoon, August 24, the Summit Fire was 50% contained, as verified by The Orange County Register. The burnt area (about 100 acres) was a smoky haze over browned trees not far above homes that were all saved by diligent firefighters. Not one life was lost. Although thunderstorms and possible lightning strikes are forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, the feeling in Big Bear is that of a happy ending. Residents happily returned to their evacuated homes as fire trucks headed down the mountain toward their stations. Big Bear was spared the fate of Lake Arrowhead, on the other side of the San Bernardino Mountains, that was devastated by the 2003 Old Fire. Summer's end stretched toward a hopeful fall with lower temperatures and less chance of fire.
Trees burst into flame at the top of Knight Road at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Big Bear s Summit Fire
Trees burst into flame at the top of Knight Road at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Big Bear's Summit Fire
By 3:20 p.m.  the flames has spread Eastward toward Snow Summit
By 3:20 p.m., the flames has spread Eastward toward Snow Summit
A western wind fanned the flames through tall pine trees
A western wind fanned the flames through tall pine trees
The flames mar the peaceful forest as smoke drifts skyward
The flames mar the peaceful forest as smoke drifts skyward
The smoke as seen from above  at Cedar Lake
The smoke as seen from above, at Cedar Lake
Smoke above Big Bear Village
Smoke above Big Bear Village
Smoke close to Calvary Chapel Big Bear
Smoke close to Calvary Chapel Big Bear
From Stater Brothers shopping center  a view of the fire approaching Snow Summit ski resort. You can...
From Stater Brothers shopping center, a view of the fire approaching Snow Summit ski resort. You can see a firefighting airplane at the bottom left.
Snow Summit Ski Resort  still to the east of the Summit Fire
Snow Summit Ski Resort, still to the east of the Summit Fire
As night approaches  the fire slows its advance toward Snow Summit
As night approaches, the fire slows its advance toward Snow Summit
Pine Summit Salvation Army workers served water to firefighters  volunteers  and journalists as smok...
Pine Summit Salvation Army workers served water to firefighters, volunteers, and journalists as smoke rose above
Los Angeles Channel 2 news team mingles with firefighters and fire trucks between Snow Summit and Pi...
Los Angeles Channel 2 news team mingles with firefighters and fire trucks between Snow Summit and Pine Summit
A Channel 2 News reporter takes a photo of a firetruck
A Channel 2 News reporter takes a photo of a firetruck
Firemen pose near the Summit Fire border in Big Bear
Firemen pose near the Summit Fire border in Big Bear
The Emergency Base Camp off Knickerbocker Road near Big Bear Village
The Emergency Base Camp off Knickerbocker Road near Big Bear Village
A fireman poses in his firetruck that drove up the mountain from Riverside
A fireman poses in his firetruck that drove up the mountain from Riverside
The burnt area as seen from the north shore of Big Bear Lake on August 24  2015
The burnt area as seen from the north shore of Big Bear Lake on August 24, 2015
Close-up of the burnt area
Close-up of the burnt area
Smoldering trees covered by smoke above homes as seen from Stanfield Cutoff at the east end of Big B...
Smoldering trees covered by smoke above homes as seen from Stanfield Cutoff at the east end of Big Bear Lake on August 24, 2015
Close-up of the burned trees
Close-up of the burned trees
Sunset at Big Bear Lake on August 24 brings a happy ending to the Summit Fire  which smolders in the...
Sunset at Big Bear Lake on August 24 brings a happy ending to the Summit Fire, which smolders in the distance
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