Calif. blaze kept at 2,000 acres


By Maeve Reston
Los Angeles Times
Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times
All Rights Reserved

Fire investigators are searching for whoever may have ignited the 2,000-acre Emerald fire in San Bernardino County on Tuesday while target shooting in a dry, grassy area in Highland, authorities said.

Fire officials said Wednesday they found evidence of target shooting on California Department of Forestry land near the fire's point of origin. The fire quickly spread across about 40 acres of brush and grass north of Mentone into the San Bernardino Mountains, where it is now burning in steep, rugged terrain that is making access difficult for firefighters.

The fire was more than 40% contained as it burned east Wednesday evening, with 1,023 firefighters at the scene and the assistance of seven air tankers, three heli-tankers and seven helicopters.

Full containment is expected by 6 p.m. Friday.

Movement has been minimal, and the fire "hasn't grown in size," said Norma Bailey, a fire information officer with the U.S. Forest Service.

A firefighter was treated on scene for heat-related injuries Wednesday as temperatures topped 95 degrees; another was taken to a hospital Tuesday after reporting chest pains.

Evacuation orders are still in effect for the Mountain Home Village and Loch Leven Conference Center.

Highway 38, the border of one flank of the fire, is still closed from Bryant Street north of Yucaipa to Valley of the Falls Drive on the far eastern edge of Highway 38.

Only residents showing identification are permitted to use the section of Highway 38 between Valley of the Falls and Lake Williams Drive south of Big Bear Lake. 

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