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May 1, 2014

Evacuations lifted in Calif.

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — Gusty winds that whipped a Southern California wildfire over 1,000 acres of foothills east of Los Angeles eased at sunset Wednesday and mandatory evacuation orders were cancelled for 1,650 homes.

But people in some northern neighborhoods of Rancho Cucamonga were urged to leave voluntarily if they felt threatened, and the winds still were too high to permit aircraft to battle the flames, said Chon Bribiescas, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.

The blaze erupted around 8 a.m. in the foothills of the San Bernardino National Forest and by afternoon had burned 1,000 acres of brush.

The flames leapt through rocky brushlands. Hot, dry winds gusting to 70 mph or more at times sent smoke and ash over some neighborhoods. Even where homes weren’t in imminent danger, the threat remained.

A blaze fanned by gusts “tends to throw embers and brands ahead of itself, sometimes a mile,” Bribiescas said.

Seven schools were closed and parents scrambled to take their children away.

Golden Elementary School was placed under voluntary evacuation.

Francisco Aguilar, a Los Angeles city firefighter who lives in Rancho Cucamonga, picked up his 11-year-old daughter, Bella.

“It’s like a madhouse in there,” he said. “Parents are running around trying to grab their kids, and kids are covering their faces with tissue or their T-shirts.”

About 700 firefighters battled the wildfire. But they were bereft of air support as high afternoon wind gusts grounded the low-flying planes and helicopters.

The winds began to ease in late afternoon, and the mandatory evacuation was cancelled shortly before 6 p.m.

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