350-acre wildfire in Murrieta close to contained

A firefighter fights the Riverside-county blaze, now contained at 75 percent.
A firefighter fights the Riverside-county blaze, now contained at 75 percent.

A 350-acre wildfire that destroyed a home in rural Riverside County was close to being contained Thursday as firefighters raced to finish the job ahead of expected afternoon winds.

The fire was 75 percent contained with no flames visible, only hotspots, state fire spokeswoman Jody Hagemann said.

"They've got quite a bit of mop-up to do," she said.

The fire initially was declared surrounded Thursday morning but that was retracted when it became clear that more fireline had to be carved, she said.

About 185 firefighters aided by a water-dropping helicopter were working in brush, scrub oak and light grass, she said. Three firefighters had received minor injuries since the fire erupted Wednesday.

The weather was calm and clear by midmorning Thursday but the National Weather Service forecast winds of 10 mph or greater in the late afternoon.

A day earlier, wind-whipped flames burned down a large two-story home in Murrieta, about 90 miles east of Los Angeles.

The Snyder family, which had lived there for 23 years, fled earlier as winds pushed the fire closer.

"We were there and then we had to leave and I couldn't grab anything," Sherrie Snyder told KCAL-TV as she and several other family members stood and embraced on a road near the fire lines. "The fire department is wonderful, they grabbed some photo albums."

Snyder said she helped raise six children and six grandchildren in the home.

"I don't want to let this whole thing engulf me," she said. "We're a strong family, we're close, and we'll figure it out."

There was no immediate damage estimate, Hagemann said.

Some other homes in the area sit on acres of land and are valued at millions of dollars.

The fire apparently was caused by sparks thrown off when Riverside County mowing equipment clearing brush became entangled in barbed wire on a road, state fire Battalion Chief Phil Rawlings told the Los Angeles Times.

The county was cooperating with fire officials in the investigation, a Riverside County statement said.

"Each year, the county works to reduce the chance of fire by clearing brush and weeds along roadsides. The fire is a tragedy for the residents whose homes are threatened and whose lives and families are being disrupted," the statement said. "County officials will do everything in their power to assist them."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.