Firefighters Battle California Ski Area Fire

Firefighters made steady progress Friday against a blaze that got out of control after it was ignited to destroy dry brush and dead trees.


BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. (AP) -- Firefighters made steady progress Friday against a blaze that got out of control after it was ignited to destroy dry brush and dead trees.

The 350-acre fire, about two miles south of the resort city of Big Bear Lake, was 65 percent contained and had stopped moving Friday, authorities said. Full containment was expected Saturday.

About 1,500 skiers were ordered to leave Bear Mountain and adjacent Snow Summit but no homes were evacuated and no one was injured, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Carol Beckley said. A hut used by the resort's ski patrol was destroyed.

One resort opened Friday, and another was expected to accept skiers Saturday.

The blaze was set Wednesday by the Forest Service to destroy dry brush and dead trees in one of the nation's most heavily urbanized forests. It got out of control Thursday afternoon and raced uphill.

The Forest Service next week will review its handling of the prescribed burn.

Last fall, wildfires burned tens of thousands of acres and hundreds of homes to the west, in the Lake Arrowhead area of the 840,000-acre San Bernardino National Forest, but vast stands of trees killed by an infestation of bark beetles remain, and Southern California's winter ended with days of record-breaking high temperatures.

Authorities say controlled burns are an important tool in forest management, but the latest fire has renewed debate over the issue.

Residents angry with the Forest Service's handling of the fire made threats to the agency's employees, and someone threw rocks Friday morning at a Forest Service worker at Big Bear Ranger Station, said Ruth Wenstrom, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino National Forest. Forest Service investigators were looking into the incidents.