LAKE HEMET (CBSLA.com) — A wildfire in the Riverside County mountains has grown to 27,179 acres and remained 15 percent contained Friday.
The Mountain Fire, which broke out around 1:45 p.m. Monday, is burning through chaparral and timber in extremely difficult terrain, according the U.S. Forest Service.
The fire grew 2,000 acres overnight and had destroyed 23 structures as of Friday evening. More than 6,000 of the acres burned are on the reservation belonging to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, according to an official with the tribe.
“A lot of the easier parts of the line have been made,” Tom Efird with Cal Instant Management told KCAL9’s Greg Mills. “Now we actually have to go up and confront the most active part of the fire.”
Firefighters had been focused on the ridge north of the town of Idyllwild Friday morning, as erratic winds threatened to push flames into town. By midday the fire appeared to be contained to the ridge, and firefighting efforts shifted to focus on the Tram area outside of Palm Springs.
With Governor Jerry Brown out of the state, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom Friday issued an emergency proclamation for Riverside County, making the county eligible for state and federal aid.
“This was sort of D-Day,” said Fern Valley resident Richard Mozeleski, who has stayed despite evacuation orders. “If it fell over the ridge here, then it could be kind of crazy.”
Shifting winds to the northeast have pushed the fire towards the Palm Springs area, though the city’s Bureau of Tourism said “Palm Springs is safe and open for business.” On Thursday, the bureau announced that some Palm Springs hotels would be offering discounted rates to those affected by the fire.
A total of 3,316 personnel were on hand to fight the fire, as well as 263 engines, 19 helicopters and 10 fixed-wing aircraft.
Authorities believe that the fire, which has forced mandatory evacuations for Idyllwild, Fern Valley and Trails End, was “human caused”. The investigation is ongoing.
KCAL9’s Adrianna Weingold talked to a man whose home was destroyed in the fire.
“It’s just gone—there’s a lot of memories and stuff but right now I don’t think I’ve really stopped to think about it much,” said Fritz Wuttke.
Part of the chimney and a swing set is all that is left .Wuttke is also maintenance director of Pine Springs Ranch in Apple Canyon. Summer camp had just begun. He and 170 children and camp staff had mere moments to get out.
“I just told them to get all the stuff they could think of and throw it in the car,” Wuttke said.
Evacuation orders have been lifted for the Andreas Canyon Club in Bonita Vista and Apple Canyon areas.
Camp Ronald McDonald and Camp Joe Sherman were voluntarily evacuated due to health concerns related to air quality.
The American Red Cross has established evacuation centers at the following locations:
- Hemet High School, 41701 E. Stetson Avenue
- Hamilton High School, 57430 Mitchell Road in Anza
- Beaumont High School, 39139 Cherry Valley Boulevard
Small animals can be brought to an animal evacuation site set up at San Jacinto Animal Shelter, 581 S. Grand Avenue, officials said. Large and small animals can be taken to Lake Hemet Campground in Garner Valley.
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