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Highway Fire: Crews gain on Riverside wildfire, but high winds, dry weather fan concerns

A battalion chief briefs San Diego firefighters deployed to help with the Highway Fire burning in Riverside County.
A battalion chief briefs San Diego firefighters deployed to help with the Highway Fire burning in Riverside County.
San Diego Fire Department
A battalion chief briefs San Diego firefighters deployed to help with the Highway Fire burning in Riverside County.
The Highway Fire burning in Riverside County as seen from above on Sunday, April 18. 2015.
Courtesy Cal Fire Riverside
A battalion chief briefs San Diego firefighters deployed to help with the Highway Fire burning in Riverside County.
Fire officials gather for the morning briefing on a wildfire that broke out near a dam in Riverside County Saturday.
Courtesy Cal Fire Riverside


Fire officials say they've been making progress fighting a wildfire that has been burning an area of Riverside County since Saturday, prompting evacuations and sending plumes of smoke across a wide area. 

Evacuation orders for about 300 homes were lifted Sunday morning, but CalFire spokesperson Liz Brown said Sunday that high winds and dense brush has slowed firefighters down.  

"The area is dense with fuel so mop up has been a little slow, but we're making good progress," she said. "We're making sure that our mop up is completely out and the fire is cold 'cause we don't want something to flare up and have the fire extend beyond our containment lines." 

Brown said the fire changed directions early Sunday, relieving some concerns for nearby homes. Still, she said firefighters expect to be out for at least a couple days, working on surrounding the flames and stamping out areas that were only partially burned. 

"We don't have the luxury of letting something cinder and have an ember burn," Brown said. "We need to make sure it's out because of the four-year drought and the critical level of fuel dryness."

Winds, too, are still a concern, especially for those who live close by. The South Coast Air Quality District warned Sunday that air quality has reached unhealthy levels.

"The wind is carrying the smoke in all different directions," Brown said "We've even gotten reports into Ventura County."

Brown advised residents with asthma or other respiratory illnesses to keep an inhaler close by or to stay indoors. You can get some tips on staying healthy when air quality is low on KPCC's Fire Tracker

Brown said she expects a cooling trend this week to help in the firefighting efforts.  

Fire Tracker: Highway Fire

The fire was reported shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday in the Prado Dam Flood Control Basin.

So far, there's no word on what might have caused the incident. No injuries or damage to homes have been reported.