Fairview Fire destruction
Destroyed homes and vehicles as the Fairview Fire burns near Hemet. REUTERS/David Swanson

Firefighters were battling a fast-moving brush fire just east of Hemet Tuesday that killed two people and injured another person, destroying several structures and prompting evacuation orders.

The Fairview Fire was reported a little after 2 p.m. Monday on Fairview Avenue and Bautista Road, and had burned 2,000 acres by 10 p.m., according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

The figure grew to 2,400 acres by daybreak, with containment at 5%, fire officials said at a 6 a.m. briefing. The fire could grow to 7,000 acres an official said.

Schools were closed in the Hemet Unified School District.

Cal Fire said the fire resulted in two civilian fatalities and one civilian burn injury. Officials added that seven buildings were destroyed and several more were damaged. Assessments would be made on Tuesday to determine a more accurate number.

Evacuations were ordered for an area south of Stetson, north of Cactus Valley Road, west of Bautista Canyon and east of State Street. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department was going door to door to enforce the evacuation order, Cal Fire Captain Richard Cordova said.

He estimated that some 1,500 homes were affected by the evacuation order.

An evacuation warning was issued for Cactus Valley in an area north of Cactus Valley Road and east of Stetson, where residents were urged to prepare to leave at a moment’s notice.

Another evacuation warning was issued late Monday for Bautista Canyon Road, south of Stetson and north of the Two Streams Fork trailhead.

An evacuation center was set up at Tahquitz High School at 4425 Titan Trail in Hemet. Riverside County officials said evacuees could also bring their small animals to the center, where personnel would assist with evacuated pets.

Caltrans reported that the following streets were closed to southbound traffic at Stetson Street in the east Hemet area: Stanford, Dartmouth, Cornell, Aurora Drive, Columbia, Yale, Girard, San Jacinto, Santa Fe, Meridian, Hemet, Lake and Fairview Avenue.

Cordova said the fire was already well underway when firefighters first arrived on the scene amid strong east winds. Temperatures were over 100 degrees in the fire area with relative humidity of 13% and east winds gusting at 15 to 25 mph at the time of ignition, according to the National Weather Service.

Cal Fire reported at 6:40 p.m. Monday that flames were approaching about 10 houses in the area of Newport Road east of State Street, where additional resources were requested.

Smoke from the fire could be seen as far as the Orange County coast.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced early Tuesday that California has secured a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help ensure the availability of vital resources to suppress the Fairview Fire.

The grant will enable local, state and tribal agencies responding to the fire to apply for 75% reimbursement of their eligible fire suppression costs.



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Ellen Bullock