UPDATE: Oct. 29, 9:48 a.m.
Firefighters strengthened containment lines overnight on an 850-acre fire that broke out in the Cleveland National Forest a few miles southwest of Wildomar, increasing the containment level to 90 percent today as cooler temperatures set in.
Full containment of the fire is expected by Monday, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
UPDATE: Oct. 28, 9 p.m.
Firefighters made progress today in the battle against the 850-acre fire in the Cleveland National Forest a few miles southwest of Wildomar.
The blaze was 75 percent contained as of 6 p.m., April Newman of the Riverside County Fire Department said.
UPDATE: Oct. 28, 9:20 a.m.
Riverside County Fire Department reports the Wildomar Fire remains at 850 acres and is now 60 percent contained. All recreational activities around the fire area are prohibited. All roads are open; all evacuation orders and warnings have been lifted.
According to the Riverside County Fire Department, as of 6:20 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, the Wildomar Fire had grown to 850 acres and was 50 percent contained. However, all roads were opened and evacuations lifted for La Cresta and Wildomar communities at as of 6 p.m., Friday,
Officials said all residents may return home but should drive safely and yield to fire personnel and equipment working and traveling in the area. Residents are advised to use caution and good judgement as hazards may still exist. Smoke may still be seen coming from the interior of the burn until materials are fully consumed.
The Wildomar Fire, was originally reported at 12:32 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 26, at the Wildomar Off Road Park, near the intersection of Los Alamos Truck Trail and South Main Divide, according to an incident report issued by Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department.
No injuries were reported in the brush fire, which burned in heavy fuels in the Cleveland National Forest near Wildomar. The fire started when an 18-year-old Ladera Ranch man lost control of his off-road motorcycle and crashed into a tree, ultimately sparking the blaze, California Highway Patrol Spokesman Mike Lassig said.
Evacuations issued, shelters open
Evacuations, which have since been lifted, were issued Thursday night and Friday morning for a variety of locations near the front lines of the fire, including the gated community of Bear Creek, located in Murrieta.
Other streets in the community of La Cresta which were under an evacuation warning included Avenida Castilla, Via Caballaos, Calle De Suenos, Sierra Maria Road, Vista Flora Road, Teich Lane, Valle Vista, Via Sevilla, Paseo De Flores and Paseo Chapparo. The area involved is west of Grand Avenue, north of Avenida La Cresta, and south of Calle De Lobo in the La Cresta Community.
Evacuations were also issued for the Lakeland Village community area west of Grand Avenue, north of McVicar Street and south of Akley Street in the cities of Lake Elsinore and Wildomar shortly after 8 p.m., last night.
One evacuee, 48-year-old Esmeralda Pallanes, first heard about the fire from some friends in Murrieta who could see the flames from their homes.
“I didn’t even know anything about the flames here, I think they are more visible from their house,” she said. “I was home but I couldn’t see it.”
Pallanes said she and her family are evacuating their home and going to their friends’ house, but for her, it’s not about her home or the things that can be replaced, it’s about the firefighters on the front line.
“I am just worried about the people that are actually fighting the fire out there.”
Kaylee Augustin, 24, of Wildomar, was standing outside with her friend Adam Ortega, 26, Thursday night, watching the flames and smoke move down the hillside. She had first heard about the fire around 1 p.m., she said, adding that it was when it first started.
“I was coming home from Temecula so I saw it up on the mountain,” she said.
Augustin said her home is one of those in the area for voluntary evacuation. She is monitoring the blaze to keep abreast of the situation.
Augustin said she believed, due to the dirt roads and trails nearby, the fire department should be able to get to the blaze and extinguish it before it reached her home.
“I’m not that worried about it at the moment,” she said.
Ortega said he was with Augustin when they saw the beginning of the smoke plume.
“We started our way back and that is when we started seeing the fire,” he said. “At my house earlier you could see it starting to peek over the hill ridge but they seem to have gotten that contained though there is a pretty good glow there.”
Oretga’s parents were still at their house when he spoke with Valley News, but he said his family, who lives near Corydon, wet down everything from their rooftop to their yard in preparation for the fire.
“We couldn’t see exactly where the fire was but we wet down everything as close as we could,” he said. “From their house it looked like the fire was right in the backyard. From my house it looked farther down the mountain, but everyone is getting prepared.”
A Care & Reception Center was opened at Lake Elsinore High School gym for those affected by the fire. At 11 p.m. Thursday, the site transitioned to a shelter managed and staffed by the American Red Cross. Riverside County Dept. of Public Social Services worked with the Red Cross and said they were ready to assist should additional staffing at the shelter be needed.
Both Animal Friends of the Valleys and the San Jacinto Animal Campus opened their doors to animals that were evacuated from the area.
Schools remain open
While Lake Elsinore and Murrieta Valley Unified School Districts remained open Friday, some MVUSD schools closed early due to concerns the Wildomar fire could flare up Friday afternoon, district officials said.
Students at Cole Canyon Elementary, Thompson Middle School, Murrieta Valley High School and Murrieta Canyon Acadamy were all dismissed early, due to the blaze.
Air quality suffers
The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a statement late Thursday, Oct. 26, and a second Friday, Oct. 27, announcing air quality had become unhealty for sensitive groups. SCAQMD recommends keeping doors and windows shut during times when air quality begins to decline.
“When air quality is in the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range, members of sensitive groups may experience health effects, but the general public is unlikely to be affected,” SCAQMD said. “Persons with heart or lung disease, children, older adults, and people who are active outdoors may be sensitive and therefore at greater risk. People in the sensitive groups should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.”
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This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
Lucette Moramarco contributed to this story.