Blue Cut Fire Burns More Than 35,000 Acres; 68% Containment

By Jullian Aiden Bravo 

Mother Nature had all the right ingredients sprinkled over the arid landscape of Blue Cut Trail. Dry pine, parched leaves, searing temperature; the recipe was complete. But now authorities are working to determine who or what fired-up the grill.

The Blue Cut Fire, as it has come to be known, has burned more than 35,000 square acres of dry land in a rural area in the Cajon Pass. Firefighters are still battling the blaze with 68% containment. In its path the fire claimed over 90 homes and over 200 other buildings.

Sid Harris, 62, of Wrightwood, a mountain town affected by the fire, never experienced an evacuation until recently. As the fire neared his town, authorities prompted haste evacuations. Except for a few wedding photos and a laptop, Harris had very little time to gather his personal belongings.

“We got the order to leave Tuesday,” Harris said. “It was voluntary at first. Then the sheriff came knocking block to block, door to door, telling us we got to go.”

The community of Wrightwood was spared, mind a few singes on the edge of town. Firefighters managed to fend off the fire’s blazing offensive with the help of a bulldozer and a lot of dirt. And though his home is untouched, Harris nonetheless expressed a yearning for his 100-year-old cabin nestled in dry pine.

“We miss our home,” he said. “Our home is beautiful.”

 The Jessie Turner Community Center in Fontana serves as a fire shelter for victims fleeing the Blue Cut Fire, there are about 159 evacuees at the center. Photo by Jullian Aiden Bravo. Aug 19, 2016. 

The Jessie Turner Community Center in Fontana serves as a fire shelter for victims fleeing the Blue Cut Fire, there are about 159 evacuees at the center. Photo by Jullian Aiden Bravo. Aug 19, 2016. 

Evacuations are still in place for Wrightwood and nearby mountain towns. Harris is sheltered at the Jessie Turner Health and Fitness Community Center in Fontana. The American Red Cross temporarily manages the shelter. There, Harris is provided with water, food and a place to sleep. He spends his time with friends – fellow evacuees staying at the shelter.

One of those friends is Doris Huffman, 71, of Lytle Creek. Like Harris, she was ordered to evacuate the town.

She began her morning like any other other. She opened her drapes and looked outside. Then she saw the smoke. Police would later force her to evacuate.

“I opened my drapes to read the Bible in the morning, looked outside and saw a dark sky. The sheriff brought me down. No one would because of my handicap,” Huffman said. “This is the worst fire I’ve been in.”

Huffman’s cabin survived the fire but another problem emerged. Looters invaded the mountain towns, breaking into homes in search of valuable possessions left behind in the haste evacuations. Police forces are currently patrolling the affected areas, preventing unwanted people from entering, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff.

“We have intensive patrol in there and as you’ll see on national media this morning, we have been arresting looters that come into our area,” Assistant Sheriff Shannon Dicus said to the public and media Aug. 19. “If anyone wants to cause any additional anguish than what we already received as a county, we are well prepared to investigate, pursue and jail those people.”

As for the cause of the Blue Cut Fire, investigators are continuing to investigate. Police are asking people with knowledge of the fire to call We Tip at 1-800-47-Arson.

Their cabins survived the fire, and from the news Harris and Huffman gathered, they know their homes were not looted either. They expressed gratitude to firefighters for fending the blaze and the Red Cross association for providing shelter.

“The firefighters did a superb job drawing the line right before Wrightwood,” Harris said. “We’re grateful to live yet another day.”

“Praise God for that,” Huffman replied.