SAN BERNARDINO (AP) — A slight break in the weather Friday slowed a week-old wildfire that is threatening thousands of buildings in the Southern California mountains.
Dry weather and gusty winds that drove the blaze over 46 square miles in the San Bernardino Mountains were replaced by higher humidity, clouds and even a few sprinkles.
The fire about 90 miles east of Los Angeles didn’t grow significantly during the day, allowing crews to get closer to the edge as they try to surround it, said Lee Beyer of the U.S. Forest Service.
That followed a couple of days that saw the flames erupt into new life and devour thousands of additional acres of desert brush and forest timber.
The blaze still was only 19 percent contained and continued to threaten more than 7,000 buildings, including some homes that remain evacuated.
Firefighters could make more progress if the higher humidity holds for the next day or two as forecast, Beyer said.
“If that develops into thunderstorms, though, that can sometimes cause some pretty erratic winds ... and that could push the fire around again,” he said.
Meanwhile, a 100-acre fire outside the city of San Bernardino was 75 percent contained a day after drone aircraft in the area temporarily grounded air tankers fighting it.
Two drones were spotted near the fire zone. The operators of the remote-controlled aircraft were found and one was detained for interfering with fire operations, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.
“The drones are a real hazard to all air operations,” Forest Service spokeswoman Gerrelaine Alcordo told the newspaper.
No homes were threatened by the fire, which was caused by arson, said a statement from the city Fire Department.
Elsewhere, a fire in Alpine County south of Lake Tahoe had burned nearly 26 square miles and was 15 percent contained.
The fire was ignited by lightning from a thunderstorm earlier this month. Another chance of thunderstorms was forecast for the weekend but they could bring bad news for firefighters in the form of strong, erratic winds and high temperatures with little rain.