Homes threatened as fire burns near California ski resort

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds of mountain homes remained threatened early Monday as crews increased containment of a wildfire burning through timber near a popular Southern California ski resort.

Water cannons usually used for making snow were pointed at the fire burning near Snow Summit resort in Big Bear Lake, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles.

"We've made plans for this exact scenario," Snow Summit's marketing manager Chris Riddle told KABC-TV on Sunday, shortly after the fire broke out. "We're pumping out a bunch of water right now, wetting down the trees, wetting down the surrounding grass."

Near Snow Summit resort, firefighters working through the night held the blaze to about 100 acres. It was 30 percent contained early Monday.

The resort in the San Bernardino Mountains was open for mountain biking and scenic ski-lift rides before closing for the fire, Riddle said.

Evacuation orders were in place for up to 500 homes, many of them cabins and vacation houses.

All schools within the Bear Valley Unified School District were closed Monday because of the fire. Several mountain roads were off-limits.

Meanwhile in Central California, firefighters were chipping away at a much larger blaze burning for several weeks that led to the evacuation of thousands of people and destroyed a lodge in Kings Canyon National Park.

Fire crews increased the blaze's containment to 7 percent Sunday, the U.S. Forest Service said. The wildfire has burned across more than 73 square miles of timber and brush left parched by the state's extended drought.

At least 2,500 campers, hikers, employees and residents fled the area last week, including staffers and summer campers at The Hume Lake Christian Camp.

Nobody was hurt when the Kings Canyon lodge, which bills itself as a folksy getaway for tourists, was burned to its foundation.

The lightning-sparked blaze has been burning for three weeks. It is one of at least 15 wildfires burning across California.

Smoke from the huge fire was expected to degrade air quality, especially in valley areas to the northeast, officials said.

Smoke also was making the search difficult for a hiker who has been missing since Thursday. Miyuki Hardwood, 62, separated from a group of strangers she signed up to hike with Thursday. A military helicopter joined in the search Sunday, the Fresno County Sheriff's Department said.

There were no live flames near where Hardwood was hiking, but authorities were worried about the effects that the smoke, along with rocky terrain, would have on her safety.