Crews battle blaze near Morongo Indian Reservation

BANNING – Firefighters continued today to battle 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.

The non-injury blaze, which was 5 percent contained as of this afternoon, 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.

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.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory that will be in effect through Wednesday morning in the Coachella Valley and Banning Pass Area, warning of potentially unhealthy air quality levels. Those living in areas impacted by smoke were advised to avoid vigorous outdoor or indoor exertion and keep windows and doors closed.

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

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