SAN BERNARDINO – A wildfire raced out of control over 1,500 acres in the San Bernardino National Forest just north of the city Friday, destroying a wing of a 1930s-era hotel, authorities said. No injuries were reported.
The fire was burning north, climbing higher into the San Bernardino Mountains, where small communities and resorts are located. Air tankers released loads of fire retardant on the brushy slopes in an attempt to corral the blaze.
“I’m seeing flames — 30-foot flames — and my deck is covered completely in ash,” said Jamie Mariani, a server at the Cliffhanger Restaurant in Crestline, as she watched the fire burn in the forest on the mountain slopes to the south.
No residents were evacuated, but officials urged caution, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Jolene Cassano. Weather was windy and warm, in the mid-80s.
The fire burned the west wing of the Arrowhead Springs Hotel and destroyed a bathhouse and three other maintenance buildings nearby, Cassano said.
The former resort at the 2,000-foot-level of the mountains is now used by a theology school.
The fire erupted around 11:45 a.m. near Waterman Canyon and state Highway 18, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
Louis Blumberg, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said a training burn had been scheduled for the area on Friday. He could not say if the exercise caused the wildfire.
“We have an investigation going right now and we don’t want to prejudice it,” Blumberg said.
“At first I thought it was really gray and cloudy outside, but I stepped out and saw it was a big cloud of smoke rising over the buildings,” said Kathy Sharpe, 48, who manages a steakhouse on Waterman Canyon Road near the hotel.
“It’s an unusually windy day, windier than normal,” she said.
Firefighters were dispatched from the CDF, San Bernardino and Riverside County fire departments.
Dorie Reeder, 40, a manager of a motel in Crestline, said she was confident that the CDF could handle the fire.
“We don’t panic until someone comes to the door and says ’let’s go,”’ she said.