Lingering Wildfire Threat Unnerves California Residents

PHOTO: A firefighter sprays down brush as he battles a fire burning in Day Creek near the Etiwanda Preserve in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., April 30, 2014.
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Gusty winds that whipped a Southern California wildfire over 1,000 acres of foothills east of Los Angeles eased at sunset Wednesday and mandatory evacuation orders were canceled for 1,650 homes. But the worry is that the winds will pick back up today, igniting the blaze all over again.

The treacherous combination of 90-degree heat and up to 90-mph wind gusts is making the fire fast-moving and unpredictable. The winds were so fierce that fire crews couldn't put up any helicopters or planes to battle the blaze.

Over 700 troops are battling the fire on the ground. At the fire's height, seven schools were closed and parents scrambled to take their children away.

Francisco Aguilar, a Los Angeles city firefighter who lives in Rancho Cucamonga, picked up his 11-year-old daughter, Bella.

"It's like a madhouse in there," he told the San Bernardino Sun. "Parents are running around trying to grab their kids, and kids are covering their faces with tissue or their T-shirts."

The winds finally began to ease in late afternoon, and the mandatory evacuation was canceled shortly before 6 p.m. Although the fire remained out of control, it had run out of fuel in some areas, while firefighters and bulldozers cut away brush in others, said Chon Bribiescas, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.

The winds were expected to continue easing overnight, but they could pick up again Thursday.

Resident Dennis Rudolph described the fear of packing up his belongings, of being forced to leave his home.

"The thought goes through your head that I'm going to lose it all," he said.

That hasn't happened - yet. No homes have been destroyed. At this point, the only structure that burned was a fence.

Still, homeowners such as Jenna Zwerner remain nervous.

"You keep thinking it's just going to go by, but it doesn't," she said. A separate fire damaged nearby houses and backyards recently, "so we know that it's real. And it can happen."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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