The blaze, dubbed the Manzanita Fire, was reported shortly after 3 p.m. Monday in the area of state Route 79 and Dump Road, near the Lamb Canyon landfill, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

A 5,800-acre brush fire sparked by a traffic crash south of Beaumont threatened rural communities throughout the Banning Pass Tuesday while tainting the air with smoke in the Coachella Valley and other areas.

The blaze, dubbed the Manzanita Fire, was reported shortly after 3 p.m. Monday in the area of state Route 79 and Dump Road, near the Lamb Canyon landfill, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

An agency spokeswoman said a two-car crash triggered the wildfire, which was only 20 percent contained as of Tuesday afternoon. Two people suffered unspecified injuries in the collision.

Communities in the path of the fire included Mount Edna, Poppet Flats, Silent Valley, Twin Pines and other lightly populated areas between Highland Home Road and state Route 243 in the Banning Pass. Evacuation warnings were issued for each of the locations.

An evacuation center was established at Hemet High School, 41701 Stetson Ave. Evacuees were advised to use Highway 243 through Idyllwild to get to Hemet and take pets, pet supplies and any necessary medication with them.

According to Cal Fire, about 1,300 personnel were deployed on the fire lines, aided by multiple air tankers and water dropping helicopters, water tenders and bulldozers. Firefighters responded from the county, along with Beaumont, Corona, Hemet, Idyllwild, Murrieta, Riverside and San Bernardino County.

The California Highway Patrol completely shut down the 79 between Gilman Springs Road to the south, near San Jacinto, and Interstate 10 to the north, causing a major traffic jam in both directions Monday. All southbound lanes were reopened overnight, and one northbound lane became available Tuesday.

Flames burned up hillsides on both sides of the four-lane highway early on.

Near triple-digit temperatures were taking a toll on fire personnel, but there were no reports of injuries on the fire lines.

Critical fire weather conditions are expected to remain in effect through 1 a.m. Wednesday.

The blaze also prompted a smoke advisory from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, warning that air quality could reach unhealthy levels in areas directly impacted by smoke, including most of the San Gorgonio Pass, San Jacinto and the Coachella Valley. The advisory is in effect through Wednesday morning.

Riverside County public health officials urged residents in affected areas to stay indoors with their windows closed and air conditioning on.

–City News Service

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