LAKESIDE, Calif. » A Southern California desert wildfire burned three homes Thursday and another blaze in the San Bernardino Mountains grew to nearly 12 square miles as smaller blazes erupted in drought-parched areas up and down the state.
Small but fierce fires burned in grass, trees and brush.
A 60-acre fire erupted in a palm grove in the desert town of Thermal, 135 miles southeast of Los Angeles. By late afternoon, it had burned three homes and several outbuildings, state fire officials reported.
About an hour’s drive northwest, a wildfire burning since Wednesday exploded in size in a remote area of San Bernardino National Forest.
About 400 people, including residents of about two dozen homes and several hundred campers, many of them children, had been evacuated as the fire burned south of Big Bear Lake, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.
No buildings were damaged as flames consumed heavy brush and 30-foot pines along mountain slopes at 6,000 feet.
On Thursday, authorities airlifted a 74-year-old man to safety after the fire advanced to within a quarter-mile of a dry lake in the San Gorgonio Wilderness where he was hiking. The man told authorities he was on a 3-day backpacking trip that began in the area where the fire began.
Further south, crews slowed the spread of a wildfire near a casino in northern San Diego County that had forced the evacuation of about seven homes Wednesday.
The fire on the Barona Indian Reservation burned about 170 acres of dry brush and was 68 percent contained. No homes were threatened.
Other fires being fought included a 100-acre blaze in Yuba County in the Sierra Nevada foothills north of Sacramento. More than a dozen homes were ordered evacuated after a training fire for state crews reportedly was swept out of control by gusty winds north of Smartsville.
Crews also fought a 35-acre wildfire in Mariposa County; a 50-acre blaze in San Joaquin County, and a 40-acre fire near the Central California rural town of Bootjack that briefly forced evacuations.