Out-Of-Control California Wildfire Forces 82,000 to Flee

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- The devastating Blue Cut wildfire burning east of Los Angeles in San Bernardino County -- that has swallowed up homes and forced mass evacuations -- is now 25,626 acres with 4 percent containment, officials said Wednesday night.

Previously, officials said the fire — named after the Blue Cut hiking trail, where the ferocious wildfire began Tuesday morning for unknown reasons — was 30,000 acres, but its size was modified due to "more accurate mapping," the San Bernardino National Forest tweeted.

A fleet of 10 air tankers and 15 helicopters and nearly 1,600 firefighters are battling the blaze, according to officials.

"It hit hard. It hit fast. It hit with an intensity that we hadn't seen before," San Bernardino County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig said of the blaze.

Added San Bernardino County Fire Department incident commander Mike Wakoski, "In my 40 years of fighting fire, I’ve never seen fire behavior so extreme as it was yesterday."

The Blue Cut wildfire has prompted evacuation warnings for about 82,000 people and 35,000 homes. But Lyn Sieliet, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman, said "possibly up to half" of those under evacuation warnings have not left their homes.

"There will be a lot of families that come home to nothing," Hartwig said Wednesday, after flying over a fire scene he described as "devastating."

San Bernardino County evacuee Shawn Brady, who is staying at a shelter, told The AP, "What I've been told is that flames are currently ripping through my house. I'm trying to remain optimistic. It's the not knowing that's the worst."

Evacuees Vi Delgado and her daughter April Christy are also wondering about the fate of their home. "No joke, we were literally being chased by the fire," Christy told The AP in a minivan outside an evacuation center in Fontana. "You've got flames on the side of you. You've got flames behind you."

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Tuesday in San Bernardino County.

The California Highway Patrol reopened I-15 late Wednesday night, while the southbound side remained closed.


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Charlottesville mayor to issue statement on Robert E. Lee statue

Charlottesville mayor to issue statement on Robert E. Lee statueMark Wilson/Getty Images(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer will issue a statement Friday afternoon after canceling a news conference at which he was expected to "make a major announcement" regarding the local statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and the legacy of the woman killed during a protest sparked by the city's plans to remove the statue.

His news conference had been scheduled for noon on Friday, but the mayor tweeted Friday morning that "we are canceling today’s press conference and instead issuing a statement in the afternoon."

FYI all: we are canceling today’s press conference and instead issuing a statement in the afternoon. Stay tuned.

— Mike Signer (@MikeSigner) August 18, 2017

FYI, the reason for the change is we decided a statement rather than a press event was the best medium for the ideas I want to convey today.

— Mike Signer (@MikeSigner) August 18, 2017

The statement comes six days after a Unite the Right rally sparked by Charlottesville's plan to remove the Lee statue from a local park turned deadly.

The rally was attended by neo-Nazis, skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members. They were met with hundreds of counterprotesters, which led to street brawls and violent clashes.

A driver plowed into counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer, 32, and injuring several others. The suspected driver is in custody, facing charges including second-degree murder.

Despite the "painful" event, "we’re not going to let them define us,” Signer told ABC News earlier this week of the agitators.

"They’re not going to tell our story," he said. "We’re going to tell our story. And outsiders -- their time has come and gone. This city is back on their feet, and we’re going to be better than ever despite this."

Signer compared his hopes for Charlottesville's recovery to the aftermath of the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting in June 2015 that killed nine people. The gunman in that attack said he wanted to start a race war, but the tragedy instead united the city.

"There’s a memorial right now in front of Charlottesville City Hall that’s flowers and a heart that talks about the love that we have here. Those are the images that are going to replace these horrific ones from this weekend. That’s the work that we have as a country," Signer said.

"That’s what happened in Charleston. There were those horrible images of those people bloodied and killed and weeping from the church. But they were replaced quickly, steadily, by the work that started to happen. By people who said, 'You’re not going to tell our story for us. We’re going to tell our story.'

"And that’s what’s happening in this community. That’s my work as the mayor here -- is not to allow these hateful people who just don’t get this country to define us," he said. "And they’re not going to define us."

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