A fast-moving brush fire in the San Bernardino National Forest in Riverside County grew to about 12,300 acres and was just 16 percent contained Friday.
More than 1,300 firefighters were battling the Cranston Fire, which has destroyed at least five homes and prompted road closures and the evacuation of about 7,000 people in Mountain Center, Idyllwild, Herkey Creek, San Jacinto Mountain State Park, Fern Valley, Pine Cove, Cedar Glen and Garner Valley, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The fire, which authorities believe was intentionally set, erupted at 11:41 a.m. Wednesday off state Route 74 in the forest area between Hemet and Mountain Center, just east of the Cranston Fire Station. About 4,900 structures are threatened.
The 32-year-old arson suspect, Brandon N. McGlover of Temecula, was arrested about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday near Newport Road and State Street in Hemet.
McGlover, who’s being held in lieu of $3.5 million bail, is suspected of setting nine fires in southwest Riverside County, including the Cranston Fire.
Prosecutors filed 15 arson counts against him Friday morning — one count of aggravated arson, five counts of arson of an inhabited structure, and nine counts of arson of forest or wildland. He pleaded not guilty to all counts Friday afternoon and is due back in court Sept. 24 for a felony settlement conference.
Despite the arrest, authorities are still seeking the public’s help with any information “regarding a series of fires on July 25, 2018, in Southwest Riverside County.”
Anyone with information was asked to contact Cal Fire’s Arson Hotline at (800) 633-2836 or Capt. Greg Ewing at (951) 940-8505.
Three firefighters were injured battling the blaze, but no details were disclosed of how they were injured or the extent of their injuries.
The Cranston Fire damaged two miles of Southern California Edison power lines, causing electrical outages in Anza and surrounding unincorporated areas in Riverside County, The Desert Sun reported.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday issued a state of emergency in Riverside County, which clears the way to provide needed state resources to battle the blaze. The fire was burning “with a rapid rate of spread” through timber, brush and chaparral, according to the USFS, which reported that more than 1,000 firefighters from across the state were taking part in the containment efforts.
Officials anticipated the blaze could spread to a number of mountain communities, including Idyllwild, Mountain Center and Lake Hemet. Mandatory evacuation orders remain in effect for those areas and were expanded midday Thursday to include the communities of Pine Cove, Fern Valley and Cedar Glen.
By Thursday evening, authorities said the north side of Garner Valley was also placed under mandatory evacuation, as well as all homes accessed from roads north of Hialeah Way in Mountain Center. All homes south of Hialeah Way, including those accessed from Hialeah, were under evacuation warnings through just south of state Route 371.
Authorities established an evacuation center for residents and campers at Banning High School, 100 W. Westward Ave., and Hamilton High School in Anza, 5743 Mitchell Road.
Animals of all sizes can be taken to the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus at 581 S. Grand Ave.
Small and large animals can also be evacuated to Dysart Equestrian Park, 2101 W. Victory Ave. in Banning, but the small ones will be transferred to the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus. Residents can call (951) 358-7329 for assistance with moving animals. Small animals will also be cared for at the Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms at 72050 Pet Land Place.
Road closures include state Route 74 between Borco Street in Hemet and state Route 371, as well as state Route 243 between Banning and state Route 74.
The blaze also prompted the Thursday afternoon closure of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which takes guests to Mt. San Jacinto State Park, near where the fire continues to rage and send black smoke into the surrounding area.
An excessive heat warning is expected to remain in effect for the area until midnight Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
Authorities issued a smoke advisory for the region, advising that winds could bring smoke into various parts of Riverside County, including the Coachella Valley, Banning Pass, the Hemet/San Jacinto Valley, Perris Valley and Anza. The advisory will be in effect through Saturday morning and possibly longer.
A fire information call center for the public has been established at (909) 383-5688.
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