A wildfire possibly ignited by lightning just west of Murrieta has burned 2,000 acres and was 35% contained Saturday morning and firefighters anticipated full containment by Tuesday.
The “Tenaja” blaze was reported at 3:55 p.m. Wednesday in the area of Clinton Keith and Tenaja roads in the unincorporated community of La Cresta, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.
All evacuation orders and warnings affecting hundreds of homes were lifted at 8 p.m. Friday
Clinton Keith Road, a primary north-south route through La Cresta, was still out of service between Chantory Street to Avenida La Cresta. However, county fire officials said the California Highway Patrol was permitting periodic limited movement on the roadway, under escort by officers. The CHP concluded its escorts at 9 p.m. Friday and closed the road until Saturday. Access to La Cresta was available through De Luz Road. It was hoped Clinton Keith Road would be fully re-opened by Saturday. All other roads in the area were open.
Cal Fire Division Chief Todd Hopkins expressed concern during a briefing Thursday that the so-called “Elsinore Effect” would turn winds erratic and create more hazards Friday, but the event did not materialize.
Nearly 840 firefighters from Riverside County, Cal Fire, Murrieta Fire & Rescue, the Hemet Fire Department, Corona Fire Department, the Orange County Fire Authority and U.S. Forest Service were battling the blaze. Three firefighters suffered non-life threatening injuries, officials said.
Two homes sustained minor damage, according to Hopkins. Another 1,200 homes were threatened at the height of the fire, he said.
“Crews have been doing an excellent job getting into difficult areas and stopping the flames before they damage structures,” Hopkins said.
Murrieta Police Chief Sean Hadden said 570 properties were evacuated at one point.
About 90 engine crews and 30 hand crews were fighting the fire, aided by seven water-dropping helicopters, most of which returned to their bases well before dark Friday. Full containment of the blaze was anticipated Tuesday, Cal Fire said.
All schools in the Murrieta Valley, Lake Elsinore, Menifee Union and Romoland Unified school districts were closed because of the impact of the fire. Classes were scheduled to resume on Monday.
A thunderstorm cell moved through the area just prior to the fire, and it’s suspected that a lightning strike ignited it.
Power lines were reported down at the location.
The Riverside County Department of Public Health issued an air quality advisory, warning residents north and east of the Tenaja blaze that fire debris could have negative health impacts.
“Ash and smoke can be hard on anyone to breathe, but especially those with lung disease,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s public health officer. “Everyone worries about the flames, but smoke can impact you even if you’re miles away from the fire.”
Kaiser recommended young children and those in sensitive health to stay indoors and run air conditioners — with unobstructed filters — to minimize the effects of smoke and ash.
The American Red Cross announced Friday that it had closed the shelter it was operating at Murrieta Mesa High School.
Anyone affected by the fire in need of Red Cross assistance was urged to call 855-243-3815.