Riverside County (CA) Fire Breaks Containment, Surges to 1,900 Acres Near Homes

Cari Spencer – Los Angeles Times

After nearly doubling in size overnight, a brush fire that broke out in Riverside County on Thursday afternoon swelled to 1,938 acres Friday, while parts of a nearby community remain under evacuation orders.

The Bonny fire, which ignited near Aguanga southeast of Temecula, steadily grew throughout the afternoon amid changing wind patterns, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection/Riverside County Fire Department.

Although the fire is dangerously close to the community, no homes have been damaged and no injuries have been reported. However, fire officials said flames have destroyed a nonresidential building and one vehicle.

The blaze was 5% contained as of 5:30 p.m. Crews had estimated its containment at 10% early Friday, but lost ground as the fire swelled in size.

Nearly 900 firefighters continued to battle the blaze under a heat advisory as it burned toward the southeast, burning dense vegetation and steep slopes. Air resources including four helicopters and seven air tankers were also on hand.

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“We’re expecting another day of active fire. They will be faring with extreme heat today and trying to get as much containment built (as possible),” said Rob Rofeen, a public information officer for the Fire Department.

Temperatures Friday crept up into the triple digits with low humidity.

Evacuation orders expanded Friday afternoon, more than tripling the number of homes threatened by the fire. A wildfire smoke advisory was issued for eastern Riverside County, with residents urged to stay indoors if they smell smoke or see ash.

At 12:30 p.m., all residents of the Terwilliger Valley community were ordered to evacuate, affecting more than 700 homes. The expanded evacuation included residents north of the San Diego County border, west of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, south of Bowers, Bailey and Ramsey roads, and east of Bonny Lane.

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Hamilton High School in Anza, at 57430 Mitchell Road, is serving as an evacuation center. A stretch of Old Mitchell Camp Road between Chihuahua Valley Road and Cooper Cienega Truck Trail was closed, as was Chihuahua Valley Road between Old Mitchell Camp Road and Highway 79.

Capt. Robert Foxworthy, a spokesperson for Cal Fire, said this winter’s historic rainfall and snowpack delayed the fire season. But in the coming weeks, he expects larger fires to ignite in recently dried fuels.

“As we continue in the summer, especially with 100-plus temperatures, we will continue to have fuels dying out and drying out and being more receptive to burn,” he said. “The chances for those bigger fires will only increase.”

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Another Riverside County fire that broke out Thursday evening, near Banning, was mostly contained Friday afternoon.

The Sunset fire, which ignited near Mesa and Gilman streets, remained at 103 acres and was 90% contained.

Investigators said Friday they believe that fire was the result of arson. One suspect — identified only as Andre Cox — has been arrested, fire officials said.

All evacuation warnings and road closures related to that fire were lifted by Friday afternoon, and no injuries or structural damage have been reported, according to fire officials.

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©2023 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Cari Spencer – Los Angeles Times After nearly doubling in size overnight, a brush fire that broke out in Riverside County on Thursday afternoon swelled to 1,938 acres Friday, while parts of a nearby community remain under evacuation orders. The Bonny fire, which ignited near Aguanga southeast of Temecula, steadily grew throughout the afternoon amid […]

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