Rampaging California Wildfire Destroyed 10 Homes and Forced 1800 to Flee

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On Thursday, a rampaging California mountain wildfire destroyed at least 10 homes, threatened more than 500 other houses, and forced some 1800 people to flee.

According to Cal Fire Riverside Chief John R. Hawkins, five people were injured, while more than 1,000 firefighters, 13 helicopters and six air tankers battled the flames. Their efforts were not enough to prevent the wildfire from pushing eastward along the San Jacinto Mountains, a desert mountain range 90 miles east of Los Angeles.

Hawkins said that a man near the origin of the fire suffered serious burns. Also, four firefighters were injured. Two of them suffered from heat exhaustion. Officials haven’t released details about the condition of the other two.

While preliminary reports are that at least 10 homes have been destroyed in the fire, according to Hawkins, that number would likely triple once authorities are able to make their ways into the charred areas to assess the full extent of the damage.

The wildfire began at 2:05 p.m. Wednesday, Hawkins stated, adding that it was one of the “most rapidly spreading, dangerous fires that I’ve seen” in his 50 years as a firefighter.

By Thursday, the fire had spread out and was estimated at occupying an area of nearly 22 square miles. Approximately 20 percent of it had been contained, but the fire was still growing. Officials were concerned that the direction of the fire might change, as it’s in an area known as a “wind tunnel.”

Any shift in the wind could cause the wildfire to spread to more heavily populated areas. As Hawkins said, “The conditions at the front right now are very dangerous.”

Orders were issued for the evacuations of five towns. Hundreds of residents scrambled to leave the town of Cabazon in the pre-dawn hours of Thursday. The mountain range behind them blazed red as the fire threatened the town.

After sunset, many residents returned to pack up more belongings and watch the fire burning on the scrubby mountains.

Lili Arroyo, 83, who lives in the town of Banning, said: “The smoke was so bad you couldn’t see,” said . “There were embers and ash coming down all over the sky. The smoke was really thick. I was starting not to be able to breathe.”

Evacuation orders covered An RV resort called the Silent Valley Club, the rural communities of Poppet Flats, Twin Pines, Edna Valley and Vista Grande, portions of the city of Cabazon along Interstate 10, and a camping area known as Black Mountain were covered under the evacuation orders..

Authorities still have not determined what caused the fire.

 

Written by: Douglas cobb

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