Radford fire near Big Bear grows to 1,100 acres; many businesses shut down during the firefight – San Bernardino Sun

A wildfire burning for a third day Wednesday in the Big Bear area near Barton Flats and Snow Summit prompted many merchants to close their shops and restaurants as evacuations and road closures kept wary locals and tourists away.

The towering smoke pillar of the nearby Radford fire left The Village at Big Bear Lake’s sidewalks nearly empty. Outside of five restaurants, a  jerky shop, a tattoo parlor and a liquor store, a majority of the businesses remained shuttered.

An evacuation order put in place Tuesday a few blocks up the road on Pine Knott Avenue had driven both residents and tourists away, said Belle Murphy, a clerk with House of Jerky.

“We’ve been maybe getting one to two customers daily,” said Murphy, a resident of nearby Boulder Bay.

While the blaze posed its greatest threat to the shopping district Tuesday, it was seemingly moving away Wednesday, Murphy said.

The fire was measured at 1,100 acres on Wednesday evening, with 2% containment. That was up from 990 acres with 2% containment in the morning.

“Slightly cooler temperatures and mildly higher humidities aided firefighting efforts today,” the San Bernardino National Forest said on social media Wednesday evening.

Tuesday evening, the estimated amount of scorched acres was 917.

More than 470 fire personnel continued to work the Radford fire, receiving help from air resources in hot and dry conditions, forest officials said Wednesday morning.

The tension caused by flame-flecked hills to the south of Big Bear Lake didn’t stop all business as usual. Bill Carlson, the owner of Big Bear Tattoo, saw the temporary commercial vacuum as an opportunity for business.

“Anyone who is open is making money,” Carlson said as he laid some fresh ink on a customer’s back. “We don’t listen to (evacuation orders). I’ve still got to pay my bills.”

Having been in business for 30 years, Carlson understands both the panic and precaution of impending wildfires comes with the territory of living and working in the San Bernardino Mountains, he said.

“When we get a real catastrophe up here, which we sometimes do, it does ruin business,” Carlson said. “But we’re not losing business (right now).”

With horseback riding being popular in Bear Valley, many evacuees are faced with finding a place to board their horses. Many go to Shay Meadow Ranch, the largest horse boarding ranch in Bear Valley, according to Jana Taylor, the ranch’s owner of 28 years.

Her ranch can board as many as 75 horses, with unlimited overflow permitted during emergencies, Taylor said. While she has taken in as many as 40 refugee horses, on Wednesday, she only had three, Taylor said.

“We’re not worried (about the Radford fire),” Taylor said.

Now only two weeks from retirement with the ranch’s sale pending, Taylor was ready to scale her life down, reducing her number of personal horses from eight to just two.

But having been around horses her entire life, she always considered it a no-brainer to lend a helping hand to the local equestrian community over the years.

“We’re a member of the community,” Taylor said. “You help your fellow horsemen.”

As the firefight continued Wednesday, dark storm clouds popped up to the west over Lake Arrowhead in the afternoon, surprising some meteorologists.

However, they didn’t play much of a factor in fire suppression or ignition, said Dan Gregoria, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The spontaneous storm hadn’t been an outlier in the San Bernardino Mountains this summer, which Gregoria described as an “active” monsoon season.

Rainfall from monsoons can help with fuel moisture, but with ongoing drought conditions, it’s still relatively dry Gregoria said.

“It does take a lot of rain to recover fuel moisture levels,” Gregoria said.

Monsoonal moisture in 2022 had been far better than 2021, according to the meteorologist. At the Radford fire Wednesday, temperatures had dropped into the low 80s with mild winds, between 8 to 12 mph, Gregoria said.

Besides slowing business for merchants, the fire prompted school closures. The Bear Valley Unified School District said schools would remain closed Thursday and Friday, with the exception of Fallsvale Elementary.

On Tuesday, at least 16 air tankers were dropping water and fire retardant on the fire. Overnight footage showed flames chewing through brush and tall trees, some of which had toppled over.

Highway 38 remained closed, from Valley of the Falls Drive to Lake Williams Drive, except for residents of the mountain communities, who were allowed through with proof of residency, officials said.

This map shows where Radford fire evacuation orders and warnings have been issued

Evacuations remained in place for the Moonridge neighborhood, from Summit Boulevard to Club View Drive and Evergreen Drive to the north, officials said. An evacuation warning was in place for areas east of Club View Drive to Angeles Camp Road and Highway 18 to the north to areas between Deer Canyon and Sand Canyon Road to the south.

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