Fires Burn In San Bernadino

After seven days and seven thousand acres, firefighters finally tamed the Sheep Fire of San Bernardino County on Oct. 10— welcome news to UCI students from the affected area.

The fire began in the Lytle Creek Canyon of San Bernardino Forest on Saturday, Oct. 3. By that night, the blaze spread to Wrightwood, a town caught between the Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

Investigators suspect arson, but details are not yet available about the cause of the fire that consumed 7,128 acres and three homes.

Pilar Viechec, a third-year sociology and political science major, had planned a visit to his home in Victorville the weekend the fire broke out.

“It’s terrifying to come home to thick black smoke in the air,” Viechec said. “All of my family and friends have to live in fear of their homes being destroyed.”

Residents from the local Swarthout and Lone Pine Canyons faced mandatory evacuation. Victorville lies about 15 miles north of the affected area and is a major regrouping site due to its accessibility.

“My high school friend’s family was evacuated,” fourth-year chemistry major, Kimberly Roth said. “Everyone who was evacuated from Wrightwood was sent to the county fairgrounds in Victorville.”

Students who visited home for the weekend before the fire broke out confronted the dilemma the next night. Though conflicted, second-year undeclared student, Clint Summers decided to drive back to school.

“My mom was afraid last weekend that I wouldn’t be able to come down,” Summers said. “We were checking the [fire department’s] Web site because if it gets bad enough, the roads close.”

Road closures affected the entire county. Summers made it, but Viechec was not as lucky.

“I got stuck in Victorville an extra night because the traffic was so heavy on the 15 freeway,” Viechec said. “The firemen had closed off the southbound in order to prevent the fire from jumping.”

Public Information Officer, Tracey Martinez, of the San Bernardino County Fire Department said that students should no longer worry about reaching their homes.

“The Interstate 15 is wide open, and the fires won’t affect [student transportation],” Martinez said. “All the mandatory evacuations have been lifted and the only road that remains closed is Lone Pine Pass, which is the road that goes directly to Wrightwood.”

A rush of cool weather in the middle of the week subdued the blaze, resulting in greater control of the fire; the state of emergency declared by Governor Schwarzenegger lifted shortly after as a result.

The latest update has 100 percent containment, or control, of the fire.

As for the students, they’re ready for this long fire season to end. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), 54,628 acres have been destroyed since Jan. 1, 2009.

“[Fires] put me personally on edge at school, but it also keeps me close to everyone because of the constant calls to make sure everything is all right,” Viechec said.

Updates about the Sheep Fire as well as other California fires can be found online on the CAL FIRE Web site (http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/) under the “Fire Information” heading.