LAKE HEMET (CBSLA.com) — Firefighters made progress overnight along the northwest flank of a stubborn wildfire in Riverside County.
As of 8 p.m. Saturday, the so-called Mountain Fire burning deep in the San Jacinto Mountains near Palm Springs was 49 percent contained, according to officials.
The fire, which broke out near the junction of Highway 243 and Highway 74 on July 15, has blackened 27,278 acres and destroyed 23 structures, including 7 homes.
By 1 p.m., fire officials lifted evacuation orders for Trails End, Morris Ranch, and Camp Joe Sherman.
However, officials said remaining evacuation orders — including those for Idyllwild and Fern Valley — remained in place along with an evacuation warning for the town of Pine Cove.
The Red Cross has set up evacuation centers at three high schools, including Hemet, Hamilton, and Beaumont. Highway 243 from Highway 74 to the Nature Center remains closed to traffic.
“It’s serious. It’s deadly serious. It’s our home but it’s not worth dying for,” Lee Millett, an evacuee, said.
He was among 6,000 residents forced to evacuate from Idyllwild, Trails End, and Fern Valley. Those in Bonita Vista and Apple Valley have been allowed to return home.
“What’s gonna happen over the weekend? We’re still gonna work on this fire. We’ve got crews up there. We’re gonna hammer it with aircraft. We’re gonna try and stop the forward rate of spread of this fire,” said Bob Poole with the U.S. Forest Service.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.