Rimforest Fire Destroys Two Homes - Mountain News : News

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Rimforest Fire Destroys Two Homes

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Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2019 9:00 am

At approximately 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 4, flames engulfed the house at 1231 Scenic Way in Rimforest.

Lesli Beeman was watching television at her home in Rimforest when a commotion from outside drew her attention.

“I turned my TV down and I heard a big boom,” Beeman said. “Somebody on the street nearby yelled, ‘Call 9-1-1, the house is on fire.’”

Beeman walked to the front door and saw people running. She hurried back down the hallway to her bedroom and saw the house upslope from her engulfed in fire.

“I looked out my window and everything was orange and then I felt the wall and it was warm. It was hot,” Beeman said.

To prevent any embers from reaching her home, neighbors ran up Beeman’s steps to the second floor, climbed the banister and hoisted themselves onto the roof. They dispersed water onto the roof, to prevent embers from igniting a fire. 

“If they didn’t do that, our house would have burned up because there were so many embers,” Beeman recalled.

In fifteen minutes, she had managed to evacuate from the home with her daughter, their four cats and dog. Soon after they had fled, the balcony from the home upslope collapsed, tumbling downhill towards Beeman’s residence. It was stopped by a tree before crossing into her yard.

When responders from the San Bernardino County Fire Department and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) arrived, flames were coming out of every door and window. The structure was deemed “fully involved.” 

“The survivability profile was zero, which means there’s no chance anybody is alive inside,” said San Bernardino County Fire Chief, Anthony Repoza.

Initially, firefighters attempted to attach a hose to the hydrant closest to the Scenic Way property, however, it was too hot for the engineer to handle. 

“The guys were getting burned trying to catch that hydrant, so we had to bring (water) in, from 1,000 feet away,” Repoza continued.

Crews attempted to protect the neighboring homes, but the close proximity of the structures and high heat from the fire overtook a house next to the first. The blaze ripped through bedrooms and into the attic of the second home as firefighters established their hose lines between the second home and a third to prevent further spreading. Firefighters deemed the second structure unsafe to enter.

“The electricity to the home was cut, which had earlier been hindering further extinguishing the fire,” said San Bernardino Fire Battalion Chief, Jason Serrano. “One of our other big concerns when we arrived on scene was the amount of ember cast that was happening.”

Protecting the environment around the home quickly became the focus of the night. Firelines were drawn as firefighters tore out foliage from around the west side of the home.

A gas line had been hit in the first house, requiring assistance from the Southern California Gas Company. Firefighters kept their hoses targeted on the surrounding vegetation to prevent any flare-up while the members from the Southern California Gas Company dug into the ground towards the gas line.

At 11:26 p.m., the gas line had been severed from the property and firefighters extinguished the remaining flames. 

Two engine companies were left overnight to monitor hot spots in the area. During the following day, the homes were torn down to mitigate any further hazard to the public. 

Joe Lopez, the owner of the second house, was at church when he received a text about the fire.

“I thought he was joking or something,” Lopez said. “I’ve been in this house for almost four years. I fixed it up and everything. When I bought it, I replaced (and) remodeled everything,” Lopez said. “We lost everything. I don’t know where to go from here.”

Lopez rented the bottom two stories of his home to a couple who were at home when the fire began. The renters fled from the home without grabbing any of their belongings. The sheriff’s department confirmed that there were no injuries and all occupants were safely evacuated from the structures. At the time of print, the cause of the fire had not been determined.  

“This incident could have been much worse,” Serrano said. “We’re fortunate (that) we didn’t have high winds. We’re fortunate that everybody got out.”

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