Update: New evacuations; Fire jumps to 19,400 acres, 15 percent containment

Mountain Fire

Tony Shin/NBC4

A home destroyed in the Mountain Fire near Idyllwild. The fire had consumed some 8,000 acres as of Tuesday afternoon.


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Fire stats | Evacuation centers | Road closures

Update 7:15 p.m. Fire jumps to 19,400 acres, 15 percent containment

A US Fire Service spokesperson told KPCC the Mountain Fire has now reached over 19,000 acres, and is still only 15 percent contained. 

USFS Spokeswoman Norma Bailey said the evacuations ordered earlier in the day for communities east of Route 243 were caused by a shift in the nature and direction of the blaze.

"They issued the evacuation due to this fire transitioning from a wind-driven fire to a fuel and topography-driven fire," she said. "And this has caused a shift in the direction of the spread, necessitating the evacuation. the fire moved to the west this afternoon and it caused a threat to those nearby communities. "

Bailey said no other structures appeared to have burned Wednesday. She added the low relative humidities, the weather and the landscape have driven the fire. She added that the Forest Service is expecting the relative humidity in the area to go up in the next few days, which should help crews fighting the fire. 

Update 5:36 p.m.: More evacuations ordered for parts of Idyllwild, Fern Valley

More evacuations have been issued in the fast-spreading Mountain Fire. The US Forest Service says that areas east of Route 243, including a section of Idyllwild and Mount Jacinto State Park, Fern Valley as well as several campground have been asked to evacuate. 

Calfire made clear that areas west of Route 243, including Pine Cove and western Idyllwile, are not under evacuation orders.

US Forest Service spokesman Lee Beyer says the fire continues to spread in different directions, making it difficult for crews to increase containment lines.

"What we're starting to see is a transition from the kind of southwest flow-winds to a more easterly flow, kind of ahead of the monsoonal that's being predicted," he said.

The wind fluctuation is has meant the fire has been moving in multiple directions. 

" The fire is kind of becoming more dominated just by the fuels and the topography," Beyer said. "Meaning it's starting to just move around and burn up-hill, and you know, kind of spread in all directions."

Update 4:17 p.m.: Trails End evacuations, trails closed 

Evacuations have been ordered for the Trails End community at the north end of Morris Ranch Road near Garner Valley, the U.S. Forest Service reports.

The Pacific Crest Trail closures area have expanded from Highway 74 (mile 152) to Strawberry Junction (mile 183) near the San Jacinto State Park boundary.

A fire raging through the rugged terrain of the San Jacinto Wilderness near Idyllwild grew rapidly overnight and has now consumed more than 14,000 acres.

As of Tuesday evening, the Mountain Fire had destroyed at least three houses and three mobile homes and forced the evacuations of nearby residents, campers and animals, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

More than 2,000 firefighters were deployed as of Wednesday morning. They were assisted by 98 engines, 15 helicopters and 10 fixed wing aircraft.

"The first day of this fire, it burned 4,000 acres, which is pretty incredible. So, our biggest concern is that we're seeing fire behavior that we don't normally see and that's why we're taking such an aggressive stance to suppress this fire," said U.S. Forest Service spokesman John Miller.

The fire west of Palm Springs started Monday near the rural Riverside County community of Mountain Center.

The fire is moving mostly east toward the desert and away from cabins and ranches in the mountains.

But Forest Service officials say a shift in the wind could easily send the fire toward homes.

Forest Service spokesman Lee Beyer called the fire "a rapidly changing animal."

He says crews are working in thick brush and trees at an elevation of 5,000 to 7,500 feet, sending flames 100 feet high.

Ash from the fire fell into a public pool in Indio, 20 miles away, causing it to close.

Mandatory evacuations included Camp Ronald McDonald and the 24 homes of Andreas Canyon Club south of Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs.

"Yesterday there was a lot of concern down in Palm Springs because the fire was backing its way down the hill in Andreas Canyon at the bottom of South Palm Canyon Drive, so we have placed contingency crews down in Palm Springs just in case the fire continues to work its way down the hill," Miller said.

Evacuation Centers:

Highway 243 between Saunders Meadow Road and the junction of Highway 74 was closed earlier because of the fire, but it has now reopened in all directions.

Photos: View more images of the fire from our partners at NBC4

All trails connected to the Pacific Crest Trail are closed, including South Ridge Trail, Carumba Trail, Spitler Peak Trail, Fobes Trail and Cedar Springs. The Pacific Crest Trail is closed from Highway 74 north to Saddle Junction. 

A group of campers from the Pine Springs Church Camp was evacuated from the Lake Hemet Campground to the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Hemet, said Mark Annas of the Riverside County Fire Department.

FIRE STATS:

Acres burned: 19,400 acres
Containment: 15 percent
Firefighting resources:

2,210 firefighters
16 helicopters
10 fixed wing aircraft, including a DC-10
36 hand crews
12 dozers
128 engines
8 water-tenders

Structures destroyed: 25-27

3 mobile homes, 3 homes in Bonita Vista area
1 commercial building, a garage, a workshop, and a cabin in Pine Springs area
4 to 6 vehicles
11 out-buildings throughout the area

Structures damaged: 1

1 home damaged in Bonita Vista area

ROAD CLOSURES: 

Hwy 74 will be closed In Hemet, no upbound traffic will be allowed 
HWY 243 will be closed in Banning, no southbound traffic will be allowed 
HWY 243 will be closed at Mountain Center 
HWY 74 closed at HWY 371 

This story has been updated.

 

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