MURRIETA (CBSLA) – Firefighters continued to make progress Thursday on the 2,000-acre Tenaja Fire which is burning in the hillsides around Murrieta, allowing hundreds of people to return to their homes.
Containment on the blaze jumped up to 20 percent by Friday morning, according to CAL Fire. All mandatory evacuations were lifted just after 8 a.m.
The fire is burning in steep terrain that is making it hard for crews to reach, or to cut fire lines. Shifting winds Thursday afternoon pushed the fire down towards Murrieta neighborhoods, forcing more people to flee their homes.
At the fire’s height about 1,200 homes were threatened, with 570 of those under mandatory evacuation orders. Two homes were damaged, but none destroyed.
Conditions were smoky Friday morning, with the potential that unpredictable weather could again flare up the blaze.
“The fuel’s gone, it’s burnt out, there’s a few hot spots, but the danger’s over,” relieved Murrieta resident Glenn Fultz told CBS2.
Ron Nelson told CBS2 he and his neighbors grabbed hoses to try and protect the homes right up against the hillsides where the fires were burning.
“These helicopter crew, these guys were on it, one after another dropping on us and on the foliage, they did a great job,” homeowner Ron Nelson said
The Tenaja Fire broke out before 5 p.m. Wednesday in the area of Tenaja Road and Clinton Keith Road. Reports indicate a thunderstorm cell moved through the area just prior to the fire, but there was still no official word on a possible cause.
It started at 25 acres, but erupted with the help of gusty winds. There hasn’t been a fire in those canyons for more than 20 years, so there is a lot of fuel for the blaze, officials said.
Nearly 900 firefighting personnel from multiple agencies were battling the fire around-the-clock with the help of an aerial attack involving 10 water-dropping helicopters and 11 air tankers. Full containment is not expected until at least Tuesday, Sept. 10.
Just after 8 a.m. Friday, mandatory evacuation orders were downgraded to evacuation warnings for Montanya Place, Bonita Place, Belcara Place and Lone Oak Way in the city of Murrieta. The same was the case for the Copper Canyon South community south of Calle del Oso Oro between Clinton Keith Road and Murrieta Creek Drive at Calle del Oso Oro.
All residents along Trails Circle in the community of La Cresta were also allowed to return home.
However, all schools in the Menifee Union, Murrieta Valley Unified, Perris Elementary, Perris Union High and Romoland school districts were closed Friday.
Clinton Keith Road remained closed from Chantory Street to Avenida La Cresta. However, Los Gatos, Via Volcano and Tenaja Road reopened Thursday night.
An evacuation center was set up at Murrieta Mesa High School located at 24801 Monroe Ave. Small animals were being accepted there. Large animals could be taken to the San Jacinto Animal Shelter, located at 581 S. Grand Ave., in San Jacinto. Horse trailers could be taken to the Los Alamos Sports Park.