El Dorado Fire Continues For 15th Day, Stays Steady At More Than 22K Acres Burned
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The El Dorado fire continues to burn in the San Bernardino National Forest, forcing thousands of residents to flee their homes in mountain communities.
The fire became deadly this week when a firefighter died after going missing while fighting the fire in the Pinezanita area on Thursday.
The victim, whose name has not been released, was reportedly a member of a "hotshot" team. His body was located during a search. U.S. Forest Service officials said his cause of death is under investigation and more details will be made available as they work to confirm what happened.
On Saturday, fire officials reported crews were able to "aggressively hold and improve" fire conditions along Highway 38.
Here's what we know about the blaze so far today:
- Acreage: 22,439
- Containment: 59%
- Structures destroyed: 4 homes, 6 other structures
- Structures damaged: 2 homes, 4 other structures
- Residences evacuated: 3,467
- Structures threatened: 26,031
- Personnel: 1,232 firefighters
- Deaths: one firefighter killed
- Injuries: 12
The El Dorado Fire began on Saturday, September 5, with a bang — literally — when a firework from a gender reveal party in Yucaipa ignited a blaze that has threatened thousands of homes and caused the mandatory evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.
Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for the following communities (detailed map here):
- Angelus Oaks
- Seven Oaks
- Barton Flats / Jenks Lake Area east to Onyx Summit
A Red Cross evacuation center is open at the Redlands East Valley High School, 31000 E. Colton Ave.
On Friday, evacuation orders were lifted for the communities of Mountain Home Village and Forest Falls, though both are still under an evacuation warning. A community meeting for residents there took place at 4 p.m. on Friday
Big Bear residents are not currently under any evacuation warnings or orders, but local officials there have issued a fire advisory, asking residents "to closely monitor the El Dorado Fire, and take appropriate precautions based on your individual circumstances."
Highway 38 remains closed between Bryant Street and Lake Williams Drive.
The San Bernardino National Forest remains closed through Sept. 21 — along with all other national forests in California.
Look up the latest air quality info for your area at airnow.gov.
CAUSE AND POSSIBLE CHARGES
The family behind the party where authorities say a pyrotechnic device was set off tried to put out the fire and called 911, but it was too late. They have cooperated with authorities, but Cal Fire spokesperson Captain Bennett Malloy says it's possible they could face misdemeanor charges:
"Some of the laws they could have broken: a public resource code where you cause a fire on somebody else's land, or, in California under a penal code, there's provisions for what's called recklessly causing a fire. And that may be the case with this fire, but that would be up to the district attorney to determine."
As of Friday, Sept. 18, one person has died, a dozen others have been injured and several homes and other structures have been destroyed or damaged.
Irvine attorney William Weinberg, who has defended people accused of setting wildland fires, says possible charges include homicide and manslaughter. Weinberg said it all depends on how much knowledge the person had about the fire risk of their actions.
He noted that a criminal sentence could force repayment of millions of dollars in restitution, forcing the person into bankruptcy. On top of that, the people who lost homes and property can file civil lawsuits of their own.
Charges against people accused of starting wildfires can vary widely depending on the circumstances of the fire and which agency is doing the charging.
For example, in January 2014, three men faced felony charges after a campfire they started to keep warm in the Angeles National Forest grew out of control. That was the beginning of the Colby Fire, which burned about 2,000 acres and destroyed several homes in Glendora. Two of those men were later sentenced to several months in federal prison.
Going further back, a man convicted of intentionally starting the Old Fire in 2003 was sentenced to death. Five people died of heart attacks as that blaze spread in the San Bernardino Mountains, burning some 90,000 acres and destroying more than 1,000 structures.
HOW WE’RE REPORTING ON THIS
This is a developing story. We fact check everything and rely only on information from credible sources (think fire, police, government officials and reporters on the ground). Sometimes, however, we make mistakes and/or initial reports turn out to be wrong. In all cases, we strive to bring you the most accurate information in real time and will update this story as new information becomes available.
For the latest information straight from local emergency officials, check the following websites and social media accounts:
- Every Day Is Fire Season. Here's How Angelenos Can Prepare Right Now
- How To Find Out About Fire Evacuations In Your Area
- How To Keep Yourself Safe From Wildfire Smoke
- The Air Is Brown — Should I Wear A Mask?
- This Is Why Fire Officials Don't Want You To Stay And Defend Your Home
- What Does 'Containment' Of A Fire Mean, Exactly?
- What Does A 'Red Flag Warning' Mean, Exactly?
- What To Do — And Not Do — When You Get Home After A Wildfire
- How To Avoid Getting Towed During LA's Red Flag Parking Restrictions
- If You Want To Help Fire Victims, Resist The Urge To Volunteer
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