BANNING ( — Crews are responding to a fast-moving fire in Banning that’s already scorched 650 acres in a few hours, authorities reported.

Residents called dispatchers at 11:42 p.m. with reports of small fires along Highway 243, south of Banning. The mountain route connects Banning to Idyllwild.

By 2 p.m., the blaze had grown to 300 acres, pushed to the east by 15-20 mph winds in steep, rugged terrain, according to Cal Fire spokesperson Daniel Berlant.

Aerial firefighting equipment was dropping water and flame retardant on the blaze.

No structures are reportedly threatened.

Flames and smoke were reportedly visible from the 10 Freeway in the San Gorgonio Pass.

The fire is burning in the same area affected by the massive Esperanza fire in 2006. Raymond Lee Oyler was sentenced to death in 2009 for starting the Esperanza fire, which claimed the lives of five firefighters.


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