LAKE HEMET (CBSLA.com) — Authorities Sunday said they were lifting evacuation orders for Idyllwild and Fern Valley as a threat to those communities from the 42-square-mile Mountain Fire had diminished.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said an evacuation warning for the Pine Cove community was also rescinded at 11 a.m.
Residents and business owners of the affected communities wishing to return in the next few hours will be required to have an access pass, KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz reported. Passes are available at Lake Hemet Market, Banning High School, and the Cranston Forest Service Station.
Officials, however, said visitors would not be allowed in the area until 11 p.m.
Evacuations were lifted as firefighters entered their seventh day in their fight to quell a stubborn brush fire burning deep in the San Jacinto Mountains.
Firefighters remained focused on the northern edge of the fire, including San Jacinto Peak, Pine Cove, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, and Idyllwild, according to Norma Bailey, a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service.
Bailey told Mertz that the rugged terrain was not the only element posing a threat. Crews were also concerned with lightning strikes and flash flooding.
More than 2,600 personnel including 68 crews, 89 engines, 11 dozers, and 20 helicopters remained on the fire lines.
On Saturday, firefighters strategically cut fire breaks and doused flames. The 27,279-acre fire is now 68 percent contained as of 6 p.m. Sunday.
Officials expect full containment by Friday.
Also on Saturday, evacuation orders were lifted for Trails End and Camp Joe Scherman. Residents of Apple Canyon, Bonita Vista, Fobes Canyon, and Pine Springs Ranch were also able to return home.
Five firefighters have suffered minor injuries.
The fire has destroyed 23 structures, including 7 homes. The current cost of damage stands at an estimated $20.1 million.
The cause of the fire, which erupted on July 15, remains under investigation.