Crews battling a 3,339-acre wildfire fueled by tinder-dry vegetation in the Cleveland National Forest continued Tuesday to work their way around the blaze, which drew closer to populated areas, prompting voluntary evacuations.
The “Holy Fire” was reported about 1:15 p.m. Monday near Holy Jim Canyon and Trabuco Creek roads, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Tony Bommarito said.
About 385 firefighters were battling the blaze. With so many wildfires throughout the state, the firefighting personnel has been spread thin, Bommarito said.
“Fire will continue to spread southeast and north with only limited spread to the west,” according to a Cleaveland National Forest statement. “The lack of resources for direct attack will allow the fire to spread into new areas, and align for strong head-fire runs and potential for an `Elsinore’ downslope event.
“Over the next 24 hours, there is a slight possibility of monsoonal flow over the area that could bring some increase in relative humidity and a cooling of a few degrees.”
Firefighters had been particularly worried about the northeast flank, where the flames were a few miles away from homes, said Kathy Kramer, a spokeswoman for the unified fire management team led by the Cleveland National Forest and the Riverside branch of Cal Fire.
High temperatures, low humidity and steep terrain are major hurdles, she said.
Trabuco and Holy Jim canyons were under mandatory evacuation orders, as well as the Blue Jay and El Cariso campgrounds. All campgrounds in the Trabuco Ranger District were closed and forest road closures were in effect for Trabuco Creek, Maple Springs, North Main Divide, Bedford and Indian Truck Trail.
Firefighters advised residents in Horse Thief Canyon and Sycamore Creek to be on high alert and ready to go, Kramer said.
By late afternoon Tuesday, the U.S. Forest Service advised residents of the Glen Eden and Horsethief communities in the Temescal Valley, between Corona and Lake Elsinore, to evacuate the area as a precaution, though no properties were immediately threatened. That warning followed one earlier in the day along the Ortega (74) Highway, impacting El Cariso Village, along with the Blue Jay and Rancho Capistrano communities. Officials said everyone west of the Lookout Restaurant to Nichols Road in Lake Elsinore should consider leaving the area.
A care and reception center was established at Temescal Canyon High School on El Toro Road in Lake Elsinore.
Small Animals can be evacuated to Animal Friends of the Valley at 33751 Mission Trail in Wildomar. Information was available by calling (951) 674-0618 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or (951) 506-5069 between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m.
The fire was burning downhill toward the Main Divide forest road at a “moderate rate of speed,” within sight of Corona, El Cerrito and Glen Ivy Hot Springs, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Two firefighters were treated for heat-related injuries Monday.
Burning amid minimal wind, the blaze sent up a massive cloud of smoke that could be seen for miles in all directions. Smoke from the fire tinted the skies above Corona, Riverside and Moreno Valley, turning the atmosphere a rust brown.
At least one cabin was destroyed by the flames.
Crews from Orange County, Riverside County and Cal Fire were working through the dense vegetation to get a line around the blaze, but there was no likelihood of extensive early containment.
Bommarito noted that the area probably hasn’t burned since about 1980.
The OCFA said residents in the Holy Jim area can call the fire hotline at (714) 628-7085 for updates.
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