California Highlands Fire Forces Thousands to Evacuate

By | November 1, 2023

A wildfire in a rural area southeast of Los Angeles forced the evacuation of thousands of people and burned more than 2,400 acres Tuesday evening, local authorities said.

The Highlands Fire started Monday afternoon in Aguanga, a community located in an unincorporated part of Riverside County that begins east of Los Angeles and includes part of Joshua Tree National Park. Three structures had been destroyed and six others damaged as of Tuesday evening, the Riverside County Fire Department said. said in an update.

The department said the fire threatened more than 2,300 other structures and would likely take about a week to fully contain. He said the risk through Thursday evening was that easterly winds could continue to push the fire west and southwest toward communities along California’s Pacific coast.

The fire broke out in dry, brushy hills, and evacuation orders affected nearly 4,000 people and 1,139 homes, said Jeff LaRusso, a fire department spokesman. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Another 500 houses were under evacuation warnings Tuesday, Mr. LaRusso added, is the step before an evacuation order, meaning residents should consider leaving.

Residents posted videos and photos of high winds and smoke on social media, warning that the fire was spreading quickly. Winds and low humidity were the main factors causing the fire, LaRusso said.

The National Weather Service issued an air quality alert for the region until Thursday morning due to smoke from wildfires.

More than 1,100 rescue workers had responded to the blaze Tuesday evening, and firefighters said firefighting planes were trying to put it out from above.

Maggie Cline De La Rosa, spokeswoman for the Riverside County Fire Department, said in a statement update Tuesday on social media said those responding to the fire had adequate resources, including additional planes expected to arrive later.

“Please stay vigilant,” she said. “We have many firefighters on the ground doing their best to fight this fire. »

A firefighter was injured overnight and taken to hospital, where his condition is believed to be stable, Cline De La Rosa said by email. No civilian injuries were reported, she said.

The first firefighters to arrive on site were confronted, according to the firefighters, with “a burning fire with a moderate speed of propagation”, which has since intensified. The rapid spread of the fire was aided by the Santa Ana winds, which are dry, hot winds that come from the desert and are common during the cooler months of the year.

“These strong winds can cause significant property damage,” the weather service said. “They also increase the risk of wildfires because of the dryness of the winds and the speed at which they can spread a flame across the landscape. »

Jesus Jiménez And Mike Ives reports contributed.

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