A fast-moving brush fire in the San Bernardino National Forest in Riverside County has burgeoned to about 11,500 acres and is only 3 percent contained Friday, authorities said.
Nearly 1,400 firefighters are battling the Cranston Fire, which has destroyed at least five homes and prompted road closures and the evacuation of 6,000 people in Mountain Center, Idyllwild, Herkey Creek, San Jacinto Mountain State Park, Fern Valley, Pine Cove, Cedar Glen and the northern section of Garner Valley, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Authorities believe the blaze was intentionally set and about 4,900 structures are threatened. An arson suspect is in custody.
The fire 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.
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 is suspected of setting multiple fires in southwest Riverside County, including the Cranston Fire. He was booked into the Cois Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta on suspicion of five counts of arson to wildland, five counts of arson to an inhabited structure and three counts of maliciously setting a fire. Jail records show McGlover is expected to appear in court in Murrieta Friday.
Two firefighters were injured, 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. 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.
Road closures include state Route 74 between the Cranston Fire Station and Lake Hemet, as well as state Route 243 between the communities of Pine Cove and Mountain Center, where authorities say flames jumped the highway near the Idyllwild Grinding Facility.
The blaze also prompted the Thursday afternoon closure of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which takes guests to Mt. San Jacinto State Park, not far from where the fire continues to rage and send black smoke into the surrounding area.
An excessive heat warning was extended to 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 Friday morning and possibly longer.
A fire information call center for the public has been established at (909) 383-5688.