Wildfire brush fire
Firefighters gain ground on the Fairview Fire in Riverside County, which has burned for six days. Photo credit: @CalFire_PIO via Twitter

Full containment of the deadly Fairview Fire southeast of Hemet could be achieved Monday thanks to moisture from the remnants of Hurricane Kay, authorities said Sunday.

The fire was 45% contained Sunday morning after burning 28,307 acres, causing two deaths and destroying 17 structures.

Although authorities reported a big decrease in fire activity, they also reported finding “creeping and smoldering fire” in the area of Bautista Canyon and Avery Canyon.

“The brush in this area is dense, thick and old” and moisture has not reached the ground there, said Stephen Volmer, a fire behavior analyst for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Volmer said resources would be in that area Sunday to find smoke or creeping fire and fully extinguish it before Santa Ana winds arrive in the next couple of weeks.

As of Sunday, 2,284 firefighters remained assigned to the blaze, working under a unified command that includes Cal Fire Riverside, the U.S. Forest Service and the Riverside County Fire Department. The fire still threatened 2,462 structures.

In other Fairview developments:

  • A firefighting helicopter crashed near Banning Municipal Airport Saturday. The pilot and two crew members suffered moderate injuries and were taken to a trauma center for treatment, authorities said.
  • Riverside deputies arrested three people on suspicion of burglary and looting in an evacuation area near the fire. The suspects had been reported to be casing a neighborhood in a white Chevrolet Blazer at around 1:40 p.m. Saturday. Deputies found a broken window to a residence in the 31400 block of Cora Lee Lane.

As of 4 p.m. Sunday, evacuation warnings were lifted for the area east of Fairview, north of Highway 74, south of San Jacinto Riverbed and west of Wilson Way. The area west of Fairview, south of Highway 74, north of Stetson, and east of Soboba Street also had the evacuation warning lifted. Highway 74 was fully reopened, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

The area of west of Wilson Way, south of Highway 74, east of Fairview, and north of the fire perimeter had evacuation orders reduced to warnings.

Mandatory evacuations remained in place for residents south of Cactus Valley Road, east of Sage Road, north of Stanley Road to the eastern border of the Cahuilla Mountain Wilderness, north of the southern border of the Cahuilla Mountain Wilderness Area, north of Tripps Flats, northwest of Cottonwood Truck Trail, and west of Rouse Ridge to the burn area.

Evacuation centers remained open at Tahquitz High School at 4425 Titan Trail in Hemet, Temecula Valley High School at 31555 Ranch Vista Road and the Temecula Community Center at 30875 Rancho Vista Road.

The San Bernardino National Forest also issued a closure order for areas affected by the fire.

Officials with the Hemet Unified School District, where schools were closed last week, anticipated that all campuses would re-open Monday if conditions allowed.

The fire was reported shortly after 2 p.m. Monday on Fairview Avenue and Bautista Road.Two civilians were killed and one was severely injured in the initial stages of the fire.

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.

– City News Service


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Ellen Bullock