TEMECULA, California (Reuters) – A Southern California wildfire fueled by desert winds has burned 2,487 acres (1,010 hectares) and prompted evacuation orders for more than 4,000 people in Riverside County, officials said on Tuesday. .
The Highland Fire nearly doubled in size from Monday night to Tuesday, moving west on Santa Ana winds. The seasonal phenomenon occurs when dry desert air blows toward the ocean, creating a fire hazard in southern California.
The fire was 10% contained as of Tuesday night, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said, after crews attacked the fire on the ground and planes dropped fuchsia-colored retardant.
About 1,220 homes and 4,270 residents were under mandatory evacuation orders, and another 1,136 homes and 3,976 residents were under evacuation warnings, Cal Fire spokesman Thomas Shoots said.
Authorities opened an evacuee center for people and another for animals, while those staying at an RV resort drove their RVs to a Walmart parking lot in Temecula, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) away.
Some people said they left the mobile home complex at the urging of first responders, escaping the flames that then entered the site.
“I had to grab dog food and basically get in my truck and leave,” Barb Bommarito said.
Robert Duke, 85, said people were unsure whether evacuation was necessary.
“It became mandatory when the police vehicles came with flashing red and blue lights and broadcast… that we should all leave,” Duke said.
The cause of the fire was under investigation, Cal Fire said, adding that the fire was an ongoing threat with several roads closed and evacuation orders in effect.
Southern California has had a mild fire year in 2023, after unusually heavy rains that included the first tropical storm to reach densely populated areas of the state in 84 years.
Reporting by Omar Younis in Temecula, Mike Blake in Aguanga, and Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, California; Editing by Mary Milliken, Jonathan Oatis, and Tom Hogue
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