BANNING: 540-acre fire at 40 percent containent

BANNING – A brush fire that broke out on the northeast edge of Banning and blackened roughly 540 acres as it burned toward the Morongo Indian Reservation was 40 percent contained today.

The non-injury blaze was reported shortly before 4 p.m. Monday in the 10000 block of Mias Canyon Road, near Bluff Street. It was caused by a tree branch that fell into power lines, according to the Riverside County Fire Department, which reported that the branch had been weakened by an active beehive inside of the tree.

The fire was 40 percent contained as of 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, authorities said.

A fire department spokeswoman said 30 engine crews and seven hand crews, numbering more than 250 personnel, were deployed to fight the blaze, aided by seven air tankers and three water-dropping helicopters. The flames were not immediately threatening homes or other structures, according to the fire department.

Along with county firefighters, Morongo Fire Department and U.S. Forest Service crews were working to encircle the blaze.

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