Three possible arson fires that erupted Friday in Cherry Valley charred more than 900 acres and threatened dozens of homes, prompting mandatory evacuations throughout the community.
The fires were reported at 5 p.m. in the area of Apple Tree Lane and Oak Glen Road, on the north end of the unincorporated community, which borders Beaumont, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.
A few cars, a structure and a boat burned in the fire by 8 p.m., KCAL9 reported.
Thirty engine crews and 10 hand crews, numbering well over 200 personnel, were sent to the location and encountered the three blazes coalescing in a drainage with heavy vegetation.
The Orange County Fire Authority sent a strike team consisting of five engines and a strike team leader to assist Riverside County firefighters. Anaheim Fire and Rescue crews also assisted firefighters in Cherry Valley.
Two of the fires formed into one by 5:45 p.m., and that fire was about 250 acres, while the other was 60 to 80 acres as of 7 p.m., according to reports from the scene.
The larger of the two fires had burned at least 900 acres and was 0% contained as of 10 p.m., the Riverside County Fire Department said.
Four Cal Fire air tankers and two water-dropping helicopters were immediately summoned to make runs on the wildfires.
Sheriff’s deputies shut down Oak Glen Road between Cherry Valley Boulevard and Wildwood Canyon Road, and shortly before 6 p.m., multiple streets came under mandatory evacuation orders, impacting an estimated 1,000 residents in 150 homes, officials said.
One street under threat was Avenida Miravilla, where flames were approaching several properties.
Evacuations were ordered for residents in the Banning Bench area and a hard road closure was in place along North Sunset Avenue at Wilson Street and North San Gorgonio Avenue at Summit Drive, according to the Banning Police Department.
A temporary evacuation center was established at Beaumont High School.
At the request of the fire department, Southern California Edison turned off electricity along Oak Glen Road and on surrounding side streets to prevent additional fires from breaking out as burned power poles collapsed and dropped transmission lines.
The practice is known as a “public safety power shutoff.”
Witnesses called 911 as the fires started, stating a man was seen walking along Apple Tree Lane, igniting each blaze. Arson investigators were dispatched to the area.
Along with county fire crews and Orange County and Anaheim Fire and Rescue firefighters, personnel from the Calimesa, Morongo, Murrieta, Palm Springs, Pechanga, San Bernardino and Soboba fire departments were sent to assist under a mutual aid request.
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