Recent Anza and Aguanga fires upset residents

The Sage Fire rages close to Cottonwood School in Aguanga Tuesday, Aug. 27. Riverside Sheriff’s Department photo

Several fires have scorched the Anza Valley and surrounding environs during August. According to authorities, all fire causes are under investigation. Arson has not been ruled out, but it is unlikely to be a factor.

Two fires this month created havoc for residents and also earned named incident status with the Riverside County Fire Department and Cal Fire.

The Yucca Fire was reported Thursday, Aug. 22, as a vegetation fire. The blaze devoured just over 34 acres.

Cal Fire/Riverside County firefighters, with assistance from Murrieta Fire and Rescue and Pechanga Fire Department, responded to reports of a fire near the intersection of Highway 371 and Yucca Road, in Aguanga.

The first arriving engine reported multiple spots, with the largest being approximately 3 acres burning in light to medium fuels with a moderate rate of spread. The largest spot was 5 acres in light to medium fuels, the second spot was 1 acre and the third spot was 1 acre. Hot spots two and three joined together for form one fire.

The Yucca Fire was contained within hours, but traffic was affected for most of Thursday night, as traffic control was necessary for the fire apparatus to deploy to the location. California Highway Patrol handled motorists, with some taking over two hours to come up Route 371 from Temecula.

One hundred fifty firefighters, one helicopter, 21 engine companies, four air tankers, four fire crews, four water tenders, two bulldozers and a helitender responded to the inferno.

The Sage Fire struck fear into the hearts of Cottonwood School parents, as the students sheltered in place within the school while firefighters tackled the blaze.

Also a vegetation fire, witnesses claim a person working with equipment ignited the fire, but officially, the cause is still under investigation.

The incident occurred across from the Cottonwood School on Sage Road Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 10:26 a.m. The fire was contained several hours later, but not before social media spread the word, providing contacts for worried parents and instant updates on the status of the event.

While the schoolchildren sheltered in place, guarded by Riverside County Sheriffs deputies, no evacuations were ordered.

The fire was contained at 12:22 p.m. with 11.75 acres charred.

Cal Fire and Riverside County firefighters responded to reports of fire near the intersection of Sage Road and Highway 79 in Aguanga. The first arriving engine reported 5 acres. The fire was burning in light flashy fuels.

One hundred fifteen firefighters, one helicopters, the utility company, law enforcement personnel, 16 engine companies, two air tankers, air attack, three fire crews, three water tenders, a fire investigator, one bulldozer and a helitender responded to the crisis.

Cooperating agencies included Cal Fire/Riverside, Hemet fire department, Murrieta Fire Protection District, Riverside County Fire Department and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office.

In addition to these two larger events, a fire broke out at Cary Road and Highway 371, scorching 3.66 acres. Another blaze started in Terwilliger, another on the Cahuilla Indian Reservation and most recently, a blaze inside the gates of Lake Riverside Estates.

Only the vigilance of residents and the instant response by first responders has prevented loss of property and lives.

Conditions continue to be optimal for fire ignition and growth and continued diligence will be needed to avert disaster in the coming weeks.

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Diane Sieker can be reached by email at