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Hillside Fire: Evacuees Returning To San Bernardino Homes Face Power Outages

SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA) — Six homes were destroyed and another 18 were damaged in a fast-moving fire in the foothills of San Bernardino Thursday.

Hillside Fire home damage
The Hillside Fire destroys a home in San Bernardino, Calif. Oct. 31, 2019. (CBS2)

The wind-driven Hillside Fire broke out before 1:40 a.m. in the foothills above San Bernardino near Highway 18 and Lower Waterman Canyon.

The fire stood at around 50 percent containment as of Thursday evening. Crews were expected to remain on site for mop-up and patrols.

"Last night was one of the scariest nights I've ever been around," San Bernardino resident L.T. Marzullo told CBS2.

SBCFD reported that investigators have determined the origin point of the Hillside Fire, which the department said was not near any power lines. The cause is under investigation by county fire and the U.S. Forest Service.

Highway 18 was shut down in both directions between Lower Waterman Canyon and Crestline Bridge.

Highway 18 reopened Thursday afternoon in both directions between 40th Street and Old Waterman Canyon with a detour in place between Lower Waterman Canyon and Upper Waterman Canyon Roads.

Firefighters were contending with up to 60 mile per hour winds as the Southland continues to get battered by Santa Ana conditions.

Hillside Fire home damage
The Hillside Fire destroys a home in San Bernardino, Calif. Oct. 31, 2019. (CBS2)

"The wind has to be posing the largest problem for us right now, it facilitates a very rapid fire spread and carries embers hundreds of yards if not farther, and can spread into vegetation, or even worse, into homes," said Chris Prater with the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

More than 500 firefighters were battling the flames on the ground and in the air with multiple water-dropping helicopters and air tankers.

One firefighter was taken to an area hospital for smoke inhalation injuries.

Resident Don Silver showed CBS2 how close the fire came to his home on Saturn Court. The flames burned right up to the edge of his property. He said he removed several trees and bushes in his area, which he believes saved his home.

"I tried to get the flood control to come up here and do it, they wouldn't do it," Silver said. "Power company to come up here and do it, they wouldn't do it. So I ended up doing it myself."

However, his neighbors were not so lucky. Embers from the Hillside Fire ignited their homes.

"This place is on fire every October it feels like," said nearby resident Katherine Eisenbesz, who also had neighbors who lost their homes. "I think that maybe we should think about the way we have the firefighting set up. God bless them, they're doing amazing stuff. But...We still feel really spread thin. I think there should be more preventative measures."

An evacuation center was opened up at Pacific High School in San Bernardino.

California State University, San Bernardino, which was closed Wednesday due to Southern California Edison's planned power outages, was closed again Thursday. The Palm Desert campus will remain open, however.

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