| LOS ANGELES, July 18
LOS ANGELES, July 18 A wildfire that chased some
6,000 people from homes, vacation cabins and campgrounds in the
mountains of Southern California roared through dry brush and
timber for a fourth day on Thursday as crews battled to keep
flames away from popular resort areas.
The blaze erupted on Monday afternoon about 100 miles (161
km) east of Los Angeles in the scenic but rugged San Jacinto
Mountains overlooking Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and several
smaller low-lying desert towns.
No injuries have been reported, but authorities say seven
mountain residences, including three mobile homes, have been
destroyed, along with five commercial structures, about a dozen
outbuildings and several vehicles.
Authorities on Wednesday ordered the evacuation of the
mile-high resort area of Idyllwild, along with the adjacent
village of Fern Valley and all the parks and campgrounds in the
vicinity as the blaze burned largely unchecked.
Several smaller communities in the area had already been
evacuated during the first three days of the fire.
The latest evacuation notices brought to roughly 6,000 the
total number of residents, vacationers and campers displaced by
the so-called Mountain Fire, said Steve Gut, a spokesman for the
U.S. Forest Service.
Gut said the blaze was moving in different directions but
that flames were still several miles from the outskirts of
Idyllwild, a popular mountain getaway known for its hiking, rock
climbing, horseback riding and music scene.
Fire incident commander Jeanne Pincha-Telley told a news
conference in Idyllwild that one flank of the blaze had reached
to within 2 miles of the extreme southern edge of Palm Springs
at the foot of the mountain. Palm Springs itself was not under
Pincha-Telley said the towering column of smoke and cinders
pouring skyward from the blaze might complicate efforts to
contain the flames as hot embers carried aloft could ignite new
spot fires in the area.
In the next two days, she said, that column is "predicted to
go right over the top of this town."
By early Thursday, the fire had charred some 2,800 acres
(1,133 hectares) of drought-parched chaparral and timber, much
of it in steep, remote wilderness terrain inside the San
Bernardino National Forest.
That was more than three times the acreage reported burned
two days earlier.
With nearly 3,000 firefighters, 17 water-dropping
helicopters and 10 air tankers assigned to it, the blaze ranked
as one of the most severe of more than a dozen large wildfires
that crews were battling to contain in several western states,
according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho.
Experts say this year could see one of the worst U.S. fire
seasons on record. In recent weeks, a Colorado wildfire ranked
as that state's most destructive on record ravaged more than 500
homes and killed two people. In Arizona, 19 members of an elite
"hotshots" crew died while battling a separate fire on June 30.
In California, as of Thursday morning, firefighters had
managed to carve containment lines around 15 percent of the
Mountain Fire's perimeter. The cause of the blaze remained under
investigation, authorities said.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and