Two people were killed and one person was injured Monday in a rapidly expanding blaze near Hemet that burned at least seven structures, firefighters said, while another fast-moving blaze in the San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear Lake also prompted evacuation orders.
The Fairview Fire east of Hemet ignited around 3 p.m. and quickly exploded over more than 2,000 acres, according to the Riverside County Fire Department. It was 5% contained at 10 p.m. Monday, firefighters said. They did not give further details on the deaths. A third person was taken to hospital with burns. No firefighters were injured, officials said.
“This fire … was spreading very quickly before firefighters even arrived on the scene,” said a spokesperson for the Riverside County Fire Department and the state Department of Forestry and Protection. fires on a live stream on Twitter. Hemet hit a high of 110 degrees on Monday as scorching heat enveloped the state.
About 3,250 homes were under evacuation orders Monday night. Evacuations were first ordered south of Thornton Avenue, north of Polly Butte Road, west of Fairview Avenue and east of State Street, then hours later expanded to include areas south of Stetson Avenue, north of Cactus Road, west of Fairview Avenue, and east of State Street.
Shortly before 11 p.m., the Hemet Unified School District announced that all schools in the district would be closed Tuesday and would remain so “until conditions improve.”
“This decision was not taken lightly,” the district statement said, noting that given the heat, the potential for power outages and the current level of fire containment, it was “necessary to ensure the safety of students, staff and families”.
As the sun set Monday, flames raged through the hills above homes as columns of smoke rose into the sky, reaching the Orange County coast. The fire consumed cars and blackened trees. Television reports showed aerial footage of structures engulfed in flames.
Some of the homes in the area could be reached by dirt roads, firefighters said. Residents on Twitter noted that many area residents kept horses, which made evacuations difficult.
Around the same time and about 75 miles to the north, the Radford Fire ignited just west of Sugarloaf near Big Bear Lake. By 7:15 p.m., the fire had grown to 200 acres without containment.
Initially, firefighters said no structures were at risk, but shortly after 6 p.m. the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department issued a mandatory evacuation order for people living east of Glass Road and from Highway 38 to South Fork River Road.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation. The fire danger the level of Big Bear Valley is “very high”.
“I’m in Perris and can see both fires if I stand on my corner,” one person said. tweeted Monday evening. “On the left I can see the Radford and on the right the Fairview.”
Meanwhile, fires continued to threaten parts of northern California. In addition to the Siskiyou County fires that tore through a neighborhood in the town of Weed and left two dead, firefighters were battling a brush fire Monday night near Rodeo in Contra Costa County.