HEMET (CNS) – Rain generated by remnants of Tropical Storm Kay has helped fire crews slow the spread of the deadly Fairview Fire burning southeast of Hemet with ground crews reaching 40% containment and allowed authorities to reduce some evacuation orders from mandatory to voluntary.
As of 8 p.m. Friday, officials said the fire had grown to 28,307 acres, with containment rising from the 5% that had not changed since Monday.
Fire officials warned, however, that the “much-need precipitation,” combined with high winds and heat can still lead to unpredictable fire behavior, so residents being allowed to return to their homes were “highly encouraged to remain alert during this dynamic incident.”
The onset of stormy weather prompted incident commanders to pull Cal Fire aircraft out of the firefighting operation late Friday morning, according to reports from the scene.
The National Weather Service had issued a flood watch and a high wind warning for the area, with authorities saying as much as 7 inches of rain could fall in the area before the storms dissipate, raising the likelihood of flash floods, mud and debris flows.
The inclement weather was due to Tropical Storm Kay, off the southwestern coast , which had been a hurricane before hitting the Baja peninsula in Mexico.
“Based on forecasts, this appears to be a dangerous storm,” county Emergency Management Department Director Bruce Barton said, urging motorists to take precautions and not attempt to cross flooded roads.
The Weather Service predicted gusts of 55 mph in the valleys and 75 mph in the mountains and deserts.
Sandbags are available at fire stations and hardware stores in Riverside County.
Cal Fire officials have said they hope to have the fire contained by early next week, an objective that appeared more feasible with the arrival of the rain.
The cause of the fire was under investigation. In a document filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, Southern California Edison reported “circuit activity” in the area close to the time the fire erupted.
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