CORONA – Crews made air drops on a wind-fanned wildfire that broke out Sept. 25, adjacent to the Riverside (91) Freeway on the Riverside-Orange county border and scorched about 2,500 acres, including several structures and a big rig, drawing firefighters from six agencies.
The Canyon Fire, which was reported to be only 5 percent contained Tuesday morning, broke out about 1 p.m. Monday alongside the eastbound Riverside Freeway, just west of Green River Road in west Corona, and initially spread at a “moderate” rate to Coal Canyon Road off the freeway, said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi.
The blaze — what sparked it was not immediately determined — prompted evacuations in Corona in Riverside County.
The fire began spreading at a “rapid rate” around 3 p.m. Monday, fanned by Santa Ana winds blowing at 20 to 25 miles per hour. By Monday night, it had charred about 2,000 acres and damaged a single family home and a big rig.
By about 7 a.m. today, the size of the fire was listed at 2,500 acres, with the containment remaining at 5 percent, and the tally of damage including “several structures,” the OCFA reported.
One Corona police officer patrolling the fire zone suffered minor injuries when he was struck by a pickup truck in a hit-and-run crash, NBC4 reported. The driver was later arrested. A second injury later was reported.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered for about 300 homes — affecting about 1,000 residents — in the Dominguez Ranch area of Corona, Concialdi said. He said he expects most evacuation orders to be lifted later today.
Evacuations were ordered on Dominguez Ranch Road, San Almada Road, San Ponte Road, San Viscaya Circle, San Sebastian Circle, San Ramon Drive, San Alvarado Road, Mt. Elena Circle, Mt. Tesoro, Mt. Palmas and Mt. Cantara Circle, according to the Corona Fire Department.
Evacuations remained in effect overnight on the south side of Green River Road, from the 91 Freeway to Trudy Way, it said. An evacuation shelter was set up in the gymnasium at Corona High School.
Battling the blaze were about 300 firefighters from the Anaheim, Corona, and Los Angeles County fire departments, the OCFA, U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire.
The fire prompted the Corona Norco Unified School District to cancel classes today at four schools — Coronita Elementary School, John Adams Elementary School, Cesar Chavez Academy and Prado View Elementary School — due to active evacuations, road closures and poor air quality, district officials announced on Facebook.
All other district schools will be open, including Corona High School, but all schools in session today will be on inclement weather schedule due to poor air quality, officials said.
Five helicopters with night-vision capabilities and three planes, including a DC-10, were involved in the firefight, Concialdi said, although the big air tanker and some helicopters were grounded as night fell Monday, with shifting Santa Ana winds a cause for concern.
Additionally, crews were setting backfires, hoping to keep the fire from crossing the freeway.
Several lanes on the eastbound Riverside Freeway at Coal Canyon Road were initially closed to make room for firefighting equipment, backing up traffic for miles, the California Highway Patrol reported.
For many commuting from the Inland Empire to Orange County, the Riverside Freeway is the only access point, said CHP Officer Florentino Olivera. “But we’re asking the public, if possible, to avoid the eastbound 91,” which was still reported to be congested early today.