Holcomb fire north of Big Bear burns 1,000-plus acres; voluntary evacuations underway

A forest fire burns in the Holcomb Valley in the San Bernardino National Forest near Big Bear Monday.
A forest fire burns in the Holcomb Valley in the San Bernardino National Forest near Big Bear Monday. PHOTO BY ERIC REED

BIG BEAR >> A wildfire raging north of Big Bear Lake has charred hundreds of acres prompting officials to issue voluntary evacuations and the closure of stretch of a mountain highway.

However, while the Holcomb fire is spreading rapidly, it appears to be moving away from the San Bernardino National Forest’s most populated areas.

As of 8:30 p.m. officials announced the blaze ripped through more than 1,000 acres of the national forest.

Fire officials have called in the massive Tanker 911, a DC-10, to assist the other aircraft and ground resources battling the fire. The DC-10 can carry 12,000 gallons of water or fire retardant which can be dropped in a matter of seconds. Pilots using special night vision gear will continue to battle the blaze overnight.

The fire was reported just after 3 p.m. off Holcomb Valley Road north of Highway 18 and quickly required air support. It’s burning through heavy timber, tall grass and chaparral, fire officials said. There were no containment lines around the fire as of 8:30p.m.

There are voluntary evacuations for homes in the Baldwin Lake and Holcomb Valley areas and around the Big Bear dump, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and Big Bear Fire Department.

• Photos: Holcomb fire north of Big Bear burns hundreds of acres; voluntary evacuations underway

The California Highway Patrol is closing Highway 18 from Baldwin Lake Road north to the Mitsubishi Cement Plant just outside the forest boundary in Lucerne Valley.

Holcomb Valley Road — also known as 3N16 — is closed between Highway 18 and Van Dusen Canyon Road — also known as 3N09.

Van Dusen Canyon Road/3N09 is closed between Holcomb Valley Road/3N16 and Highway 38, which is also North Shore Drive.

The Pacific Crest Trail is closed from Highway 18 to Van Dusen. And the Doble Trail and Tanglewood Group campgrounds are closed.

• Map: Holcomb fire

In addition to the DC-10, fire officials have ordered seven air tankers, six helicopters and a helitanker to help douse the flames.

Winds of about 5 mph are blowing from the southeast — away from the closest homes — with gusts up to 23 mph, according to a U.S. Forest Service statement. It was 85 degrees with 10 percent humidity when the fire broke out.

The large column of smoke rising above the wooded terrain can be seen on Snow Summit’s live camera.

Fire officials are asking drone operators to stay away from the fire zone. The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a temporary flight restriction for any private aircraft including drones.

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The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory late Monday warning air quality may reach unhealthy levels at least through Tuesday morning in portions of the eastern San Bernardino Mountains.

The agency recommended avoiding vigorous outdoor or indoor exertion, and people with respiratory or heart disease, older adults, and children should remain indoors.

An information line has been set up for the fire at 909-383-5688.

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About the Author

Doug Saunders

Doug Saunders covers breaking news and public safety for The Sun. Reach the author at dsaunders@scng.com or follow Doug on Twitter: @crimeshutterbug.