Thousands of California residents in San Jacinto Mountains have fled from their homes because of the wildfire that has grown out of control.
The blaze, which is only 15% contained and covers 22,800 acres, has been burning toward desert areas but changed direction after a weather system began moving into the area, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Melody Lardner told The Times.
“They are stepping up their efforts,” she said of the firefighters trying to stop the California wildfire.
Authorities have issued evacuation notices for Idyllwild, Fern Valley and adjacent communities, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said. Earlier, evacuation orders had been issued for areas including Apple Canyon and the Andreas Canyon Club area south of Palm Springs.
Evacuations remain in place for Andreas Canyon Club, south of Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, Bonita Vista, Pine Springs, the Zen Mountain Center off Apple Canyon Road and Trails End.
“This fire is moving pretty fast and we’re getting such strange winds and weather that they’re changing on us frequently,” Incident Commander Jeanne Pincha-Tulley said. “We’re erring on the side of caution to get people out as soon as we can.”
Several hundred homes were affected by the evacuation orders, fire officials said.
On Wednesday, firefighters on the ground were being aided by 16 water-dropping helicopters and 10 air tankers, the Forest Service said.
“Up on the ridge, you’re seeing 40- to 60-foot flame lengths. And when you have flame lengths that large, the crews can’t engage directly on the fire because the intensity is just too high,” said Dennis Burns, a fire behavior analyst who was among the firefighters at a helicopter base on a meadow below the burning ridges.
Battling the wildfire during the day takes more efforts because of temperatures in the high 90s and relative humidity as low as 5%. But officials are hoping that fire crews can contain lines with cooler nighttime temperatures.
“Nightime is always a good time to take advantage of the fire,” Lardner said.
The wildfire is being dubbed as the Mountain Fire because of its start around 1:45 p.m. Monday near Highway 243 and Highway 74, forcing road closures and evacuations, north of a community with a population fewer than 100 people.
“The slightest little spark is going to make a run and torch trees,” said Tina Rose, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “It’s just so bone dry.” Some of the area had not burned in 35 years.
Costs to fight it have escalated to $4.5 million, and its cause remains under investigation.
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