MAP: Jurupa Valley fire contained; at least 5 structures damaged

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UPDATE 4:00 p.m.: Cal EMA has activated operation centers in response to the pair of wildfires in Riverside County. 

UPDATE 2:00 p.m.: The Jurupa Valley fire is now contained and was likely sparked by a discarded cigarette, NBC Los Angeles reports. 

UPDATE 12:45 p.m.: The Summit Fire near Banning has grown to 3,000 acres Thursday afternoon and is currently 40 percent contained; evacuation orders have been lifted.

In the Jurupa Valley, a second fire that broke out earlier Thursday morning has scorched 12 acres. Officials say it's at 50 percent containment.

Daphne Hart with the American Red Cross in Riverside County says it's important for people who live in wildfire-prone areas to have an evacuation plan — just in case.

"Know what you're going to take," she said. "Take your photographs, take your important documents, take the things that you can't replace. Have a plan in place so that you know what to grab when it's time to go. Listen to the evacuation orders, listen to authorities. Nothing else is as important as your safety."

Riverside County has kept evacuation centers in place for people affected by either fire.

RELATED: Camarillo Springs fire shuts stretch of PCH, spreads to 6,500 acres (map)

UPDATE 11:04 a.m.:  Two residential structures have been destroyed and two more damaged by a vegetation fire that spread into nearby residences Thursday morning, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

The fire, which has burned about 5 acres, also destroyed five other structures, 10 vehicles destroyed and one boat. It is about 50 percent contained.

Firefighters evacuated students and staff from Van Buren Elementary school  to Mira Loma Middle School. Plus a gas station, located on Van Buren Boulevard near  Jurupa Road, has been closed.

Jurupa Road is closed from Van Buren Boulevard to Rutile Street and Van Buren is closed from Jurupa Road to Rutile Street. 

Firefighters are still working to get a handle on a large wildfire burning near Banning.

The map below shows the major fires burning in the region Thursday:


View Wildfires across Southern California, May 2nd in a larger map

 

UPDATE 9:50 a.m.: As Riverside County firefighters work to get a handle on a large wildfire burning near Banning, a second fire has damaged four structures near the intersection of Van Buren Boulevard and Jurapa Road in Riverside.

The latest fire was reported at about 8:25 a.m. as a vegetation fire began on the center divider near the intersection of Van Buren and Jurupa and the flames spread to four residential structures nearby, according to the Riverside County Fire Department. The structures as described as "well involved with fire."

At the Banning fire, it is 40 percent contained. But firefighters worry that renewed winds gusting to 40 mph could halt that progress. The blaze was being fought by aircraft and 671 firefighters.

The map below shows the major fires burning in the region Thursday:


View Wildfires across Southern California, May 2nd in a larger map

 

PREVIOUSLY: Firefighters were able to beat back a powerful wildfire that bore down on a dry Southern California city, limiting the damages to a single house and curbing the threat to hundreds more.

But the difficult conditions that helped fuel the 4 1/2 square-mile blaze in Riverside County on Wednesday could be even worse in parts of the state Thursday.

"Today was a transition day," state fire spokesman Julie Hutchinson said. "Tomorrow is the big wind day"

RELATED: Brush fire burning next to the 101 Freeway near Camarillo in Ventura County

Winds of 20-30 mph are expected, along with nearly non-existent humidity and an abundance of wildfire fuel. There are Red Flag and High Wind warnings all over Southern California, active until Friday. 

"The grass, brush and trees are very volatile. They're ready to burn," Hutchinson said. "Everything is just very dry. And not just in Southern California, statewide."

Forecasters said high pressure would send strong winds through Southern California's passes and canyons and near coastal foothills Thursday.

The fire broke out just after noon about 90 miles east of Los Angeles in the largely undeveloped foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains north of the city of Banning, where hundreds evacuated their homes.

More than 400 firefighters helped by six helicopters and six air tankers turned the orange open flame near the city into sheets of white smoke and had the fire 35 percent contained by nightfall, county fire officials said.

The aircraft were grounded for the night and all evacuations were called off.

But the fire remained large and volatile as it moved away from Banning and toward the nearby communities of Beaumont and Cherry Valley.

The stand from firefighters came too late for Joe Kiener, 53, who lost the house he'd lived in since his mother bought it in the 1970s.

Kiener was home on a lunch break when he stepped outside to check on his barking dog and saw heavy smoke approaching. He took the dog and started to leave just as a deputy arrived to tell him to evacuate, but it wasn't easy.

"When I left I went around the corner and I got engulfed in a big cloud of smoke," said Kiener, who could see so little the deputy had to yell to him how to get out.

He got out safely, but the next time he saw the house was in a cellphone picture sent by his neighbor. The roof was on fire, and he knew it would be destroyed, but he shrugged off the loss.

"My mom passed away a month ago. The day before Easter," Kiener said. "So that was the biggest thing that hurt my heart is losing her. Losing the house is just minimal. We can rebuild."

In Northern California, firefighters were battling fires fueled by gusty winds in wine country north of San Francisco.

In Sonoma County, a fire north of Calistoga was 50 percent contained after burning 125 acres. Another fire in nearby Napa County was fully contained after burning 75 acres.

In Butte County, a fast-moving blaze called the Panther Fire has burned about 1/2 square mile since it was sparked Wednesday morning, state fire officials said.

State fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said the blazes across of California could be an ominous sign.

"Statewide, our fire activity is up over 60 percent of normal," Berlant said. "It has everything to do with the fact that conditions are so dry, then you add wind, making the perfect conditions for a fire."

"We're a bit drier than normal at this time and seeing conditions that we would usually see in June," Berlant said. "If this is an indicator of what's to come, then we're going to be in for a very busy fire season."

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