Crews Work to Contain 3,000-Acre Banning Blaze

BANNING – Despite stiff winds blowing through the San Gorgonio Pass, crews continued to make progress today toward encircling a nearly 3,000- acre blaze near Banning that destroyed a house and left two firefighters with minor injuries.

According to the last update of the night, issued at 8:15 p.m., the ”Summit Fire” had burned 2,956 acres and was 55 percent contained. There was no estimate of full containment.

About 400 firefighters will continue on the fire lines, but helicopters and air tankers will not be flying, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

The blaze broke out near North San Gorgonio Avenue and Summit Drive about 12:40 p.m. Wednesday, Jody Hagemann of the Riverside County Fire Department said. It spread quickly through what she described as ”medium brush” and burned at least one structure.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries, and one home was lost to the flames.

Located at 43425 Mesa St., northwest of Banning, the house belonged to 53-year-old Joseph Kiener, who told reporters he managed only to save himself and his dog before the flames struck.

Evacuation orders for the 200-unit Highland Springs Mobile Home Park were rescinded late Wednesday. Mias Canyon Road also was reopened, but closures remained in effect along Wilson Street, between San Gorgonio and Sunset avenues.

An evacuation center was in operation at the Banning Community Services Center, 789 N. San Gorgonio Ave.

The firefighters came from Riverside County, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, other cities and districts in Southern California, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the U.S. Forest Service were deployed to fight the blaze, according to Hagemann.

The Riverside County Animal Services Department sent personnel to the fire command post and had an emergency rescue unit on standby, the department’s John Welsh said.

An evacuation center for small animals affected by the fire was opened at San Jacinto Valley Animal Services, 581 S. Grand Ave. and a center for large animals at Noble Creek Park, 390 Oak Valley Parkway in Beaumont.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory for the area, warning that air quality could reach unhealthy levels. People should avoid strenuous outdoor activities, keep windows and doors closed and run an air conditioner, according to air quality officials.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency today authorized use of federal funds to help combat the fire. The authorization makes FEMA funding available to reimburse 75 percent of the eligible firefighting costs.

The next update on the fire was not expected until 6:30 a.m. Friday.

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