Riverside County mountain wildfire grows; more evacuations order - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Riverside County mountain wildfire grows; more evacuations ordered

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A female inmate hand crew from Puerta La Cruz and firefighters in an engine company with them set fire to reinforce the line to stave off part of the Mountain Fire Tuesday, July 16, 2013. (AP Photo/The Desert Sun, Crystal Chatham) A female inmate hand crew from Puerta La Cruz and firefighters in an engine company with them set fire to reinforce the line to stave off part of the Mountain Fire Tuesday, July 16, 2013. (AP Photo/The Desert Sun, Crystal Chatham)
Helicopter crews work the Mountain Fire as it burns in the wilderness near Lake Hemet, Calif. Tuesday, July 17th, 2013. (AP Photo/The Desert Sun, Jay Calderon) Helicopter crews work the Mountain Fire as it burns in the wilderness near Lake Hemet, Calif. Tuesday, July 17th, 2013. (AP Photo/The Desert Sun, Jay Calderon)
A member of the Big Bear Hot Shots works the fire line on Apple Valley Rd. near Lake Hemet, Calif. Tuesday, July 17th, 2013. (AP Photo/The Desert Sun, Jay Calderon) A member of the Big Bear Hot Shots works the fire line on Apple Valley Rd. near Lake Hemet, Calif. Tuesday, July 17th, 2013. (AP Photo/The Desert Sun, Jay Calderon)
Smoke from the Mountain Fire rises as seen from Lake Hemet, Calif. on Tuesday, July 16, 2013, in Lake Hemet, Calif. (AP Photo/The Desert Sun, Marilyn Chung) Smoke from the Mountain Fire rises as seen from Lake Hemet, Calif. on Tuesday, July 16, 2013, in Lake Hemet, Calif. (AP Photo/The Desert Sun, Marilyn Chung)
Photo courtesy of Palm Springs resident Photo courtesy of Palm Springs resident

IDYLLWILD, Calif. (AP) - A wildfire pushed toward Southern California mountain communities Wednesday night, jumping to more than 19,000 acres and forcing more people to flee from their homes.

The communities of Idyllwild, Fern Valley and smaller surrounding communities in the mountains southwest of Palm Springs were under evacuation orders affecting some 2,200 homes and 6,000 residents and visitors, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Carol Jandrall.

People were being allowed home long enough to pick up essential items before evacuating as the flames crept over a peak just east of the towns, Jandrall said.

There were 4,100 residences threatened by the fire including homes, hotels, condominiums and cabins, Forest Service spokeswoman Melody Lardner said.

Winds that were moving the fire into wilderness were beginning to change direction, Lardner said.

"Yesterday it was pushing away from the communities," Lardner said. "There's a new front moving in that's changing the direction of the winds. It moved in a little earlier than anticipated."

Residents and visitors streamed down the two highways that led down the mountain toward the larger cities of Hemet and Banning.

Roccio Gutierrez quickly collected her two daughters and some clothes as she prepared to evacuate.

"It's scary," Gutierrez told the Riverside Press-Enterprise. "I thought they had it under control."

Firefighters were going door-to-door to make sure residents were leaving Idyllwild as a huge plume of smoke loomed about a mile away, but some evacuees were optimistic.

"I don't see the town burning down," Elaine Moore, 73, who has lived on the mountain for more than 30 years, told the Press-Enterprise. "We've been through it before. We just have to keep chugging along."

About 60 homes were already under evacuation orders and seven have been destroyed or damaged by the wildfire that broke out Monday.

Temperatures were in triple digits in the area and humidity in the single digits, said Tina Rose, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and similar conditions were forecast for the next two days.

Rose said the fire was showing extreme behavior in an area that hadn't burned in many years.

"The slightest little spark is going to make a run and torch trees," Rose said. "It's just so bone dry."

Idyllwild, known as a mountain vacation destination, also has many year-round residents and is popular with artists. Combined with the smaller surrounding communities of Pine Cove and Fern Valley, it's home to nearly 4,000 people. About half of the area is under the evacuation order.

The blaze destroyed three houses, damaged another and destroyed three mobile homes, a cabin, a garage and about a half-dozen vehicles, the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement Tuesday. Eleven outbuildings, five commercial buildings and several smaller structures also have been lost.

The wildfire started Monday between Palm Springs and Hemet, near the rural Riverside County community of Mountain Center, and grew to 30 square miles by Wednesday. It was burning in thick brush and trees at an elevation of 5,000 to 7,500 feet.

Nearly 3,000 firefighters and 25 aircraft had the blaze about 15 percent contained.

Camp Ronald McDonald, which hosts programs for children with cancer and their families, was also evacuated.

The fire was burning in the San Jacinto Mountains, about 12 miles from the site of the 2006 Esperanza wildfire that killed five U.S. Forest Service firefighters and destroyed 34 homes.

THIS IS A STORY UPDATE. For an earlier AP story, read below.

IDYLLWILD, Calif. (AP) — Authorities are asking for additional evacuations near a wildfire in the mountains southwest of Palm Springs.

U.S. Forest Service says an immediate evacuation notice was ordered for an estimated 12 homes in the Trails End Community in Idyllwild.

The blaze has already burned seven homes and led to the evacuation of dozens more as well as a camp serving children with cancer.

The wildfire started Monday between Palm Springs and Hemet, near the rural Riverside County community of Mountain Center. It grew to more than 22 square miles by Wednesday morning. It was burning in thick brush and trees at an elevation of 5,000 to 7,500 feet.

More than 2,200 firefighters and 25 aircraft had the blaze about 10 percent contained.

THIS IS A STORY UPDATE. For an earlier AP story, read below.

IDYLLWILD, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters braced Wednesday for an intense day battling a wildfire in the mountains southwest of Palm Springs that already has burned seven homes and led to the evacuation of dozens more as well as a camp serving children with cancer.

Temperatures were expected to soar as high as 105 in the area and humidity was critically low, possibly dipping as low as 1 percent by the afternoon, said Tina Rose, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

"I was here at sun-up and the fire was burning like it was 3 o'clock in the afternoon. That is extreme fire behavior," Rose said, adding that the area had not burned in many years. "The slightest little spark is going to make a run and torch trees. It's just so bone dry."

The blaze destroyed three houses, damaged another and destroyed three mobile homes, a cabin, a garage and about a half-dozen vehicles, the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement Tuesday. Eleven outbuildings, five commercial buildings and several smaller structures also have been lost.

The wildfire started Monday between Palm Springs and Hemet, near the rural Riverside County community of Mountain Center and grew to more than 22 square miles by Wednesday morning. It was burning in thick brush and trees at an elevation of 5,000 to 7,500 feet.

More than 2,200 firefighters and 25 aircraft had the blaze about 10 percent contained.

It was mostly moving east toward the desert and away from small communities of homes, summer cabins and ranches in the San Jacinto Mountains.

Most of the damage occurred late Monday and early Tuesday as the fire more than doubled in size, but it was not assessed until later in the day. About 50 homes were evacuated along with Camp Ronald McDonald, which hosts programs for children with cancer and their families.

The fire also led authorities to close a pair of state highways and the Pacific Crest Trail. One of the highways reopened Wednesday.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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