BEAUMONT – Firefighters were optimistic today about containing a large brush fire that has burned for two days and has threatened rural communities throughout the Banning Pass.
The blaze, dubbed the Manzanita Fire, had burned more than 6,300 acres as of this morning, and was 43 percent contained, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.
The fire, sparked by a traffic crash south of Beaumont, was reported shortly after 3 p.m. Monday in the area of state Route 79 and Dump Road, near the Lamb Canyon landfill. An agency spokeswoman said a solo vehicle crash triggered the wildfire. Two people suffered unspecified injuries in the collision.
Communities in the path of the fire included Mount Edna, Poppet Flats, Silent Valley, Twin Pines and other lightly populated areas between Highland Home Road and state Route 243 in the Banning Pass. Evacuation warnings issued for those locations were lifted this morning. Motorists were advised to proceed with caution while using state Route 243 and 79, and to be prepared to yield to fire personnel.
According to Cal Fire, about 1,300 personnel were deployed on the fire lines, aided by multiple air tankers and water dropping helicopters, water tenders and bulldozers. Firefighters responded from the county, along with Beaumont, Corona, Hemet, Idyllwild, Murrieta, Riverside and San Bernardino County.
Firefighters face another day of near-triple-digit temperatures, with the mercury expected to drop just a few degrees from Tuesday’s inferno.
The blaze also prompted a smoke advisory from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, warning that air quality could reach unhealthy levels in areas directly impacted by smoke, including most of the San Gorgonio Pass, San Jacinto and the Coachella Valley. The advisory was extended through Thursday morning.
Riverside County public health officials urged residents in affected areas to stay indoors with their windows closed and air conditioning on.