Hemet Fire - Photo courtesy of OnScene.TV

More residents near the Fairview Fire near Hemet are under evacuation orders Thursday as the deadly wildfire’s size was listed at 18,657 acres, with an “expected full containment” date listed by authorities as Monday.

Meanwhile, the containment remained the same at 5%, despite a stepped-up response by firefighters struggling to slow the speed of the flames’ advance. The size of the fire was listed at 18,657 acres as of 7 a.m. Thursday by fire officials.

As of 7 a.m. Thursday, evacuations orders were in place for residents south of Cactus Valley Road, north of Minto Way, north of Red Mountain Road, west of USFS Boundary and east of Sage Road, west of Wilson Way, south of Highway 74, east of Fairview Avenue, north of Stetson, south of Minto Way, south of Red Mountain Road, west of Stanley Road, and north of Stanley Road, and east of Sage Road.

An expanded evacuation order had been issued by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection at 11:45 p.m. Wednesday for residents south of Minto Road, south of Red Mountain Road, west of Stanley Road, north of Stanley Road and east of Sage Road.

Evacuation warnings also were issued for those living west of Reed Valley Road and west of the forest service boundary, south of Stanley Road and north of Wilson Valley Road.

They were also issued for those east of De Portola Road, west of Sage Road, north of East Benton Road and south of Diamond Valley Road.

The Department of Motor Vehicles in Hemet is temporarily closed Thursday because of the fire. Driver test appointments are being rerouted to Temecula and Banning departments.

The Fairview Fire was reported shortly after 2 p.m. Monday on Fairview Avenue and Bautista Road, and began spreading rapidly. By Wednesday morning, the blaze was mapped at 5,000 acres and grew to more than 7,000 by 10 a.m. Its size was placed at 9,846 acres by late Wednesday afternoon and 19,377 by 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Containment was holding at 5%, the same percentage it has been since Monday evening.

Cal Fire issued evacuation orders Wednesday night for residents west of Wilson Way, south of Highway 74, east of Fairview Avenue and north of Stetson Avenue. Evacuation warnings were issued to residents east of Fairview Avenue, south of the San Jacinto Riverbed and east of Wilson Way.

Additionally, Highway 74 was fully closed between Mountain Center and Borco Street.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Josh Janssen said firefighters were strategically dispersed Wednesday, following a day that saw the flames “outpace our efforts.”

The blaze was pushing into the San Bernardino National Forest, and on Tuesday, Cal Fire established unified command with the U.S. Forest Service. Janssen expressed hope Wednesday morning the tactical realignment would allow crews to get a better handle on the fire, which he said was burning with active flames on all sides.

Cal Fire and Forest Service personnel had a community meeting Wednesday at the Garner Valley Fire Station in Mountain Center.

Despite the efforts, however, the fire nearly doubled in size between Wednesday morning and Wednesday afternoon.

Evacuations were previously issued Wednesday afternoon for residents south of Cactus Valley Road, north of Minto Way, north of Red Mountain Road, west of the national forest boundary and east of Sage Road.

Mandatory evacuation orders remain in place for a wide area south of Stetson Avenue, north of Cactus Valley Road, west of Bautista Canyon and east of State Street.

Evacuation warnings were posted Wednesday afternoon for the area beginning east of Red Mountain Road and the forest service boundary, south to Minto, south to Red Mountain, west of Stanley Road and east of Sage Road.

A warning issued Monday for Bautista Canyon Road, south of Stetson and north of the Two Streams Fork trailhead, was converted to a mandatory evacuation Tuesday due to the proximity of flames to homes in the area. Additional evacuations were later ordered south of Cactus Valley Road and east to Thomas Mountain Ridge.

Evacuation warnings were extended east into the Mountain Center area, with warnings in place along Highway 74. Warnings were also issued north of Highway 371 in the Cahuilla Indian Reservation and Anza.

Hemet Unified School District campuses remained closed Wednesday.

The Riverside County Emergency Management Department declared a local emergency Wednesday in response to the fire and to enable the county to apply for federal and state relief. The Board of Supervisors is slated to formally approve the proclamation during its meeting Tuesday. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency covering the fire zone Tuesday.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District extended smoke advisories to 5 p.m. Thursday because of the layers emanating from the Fairview Fire. The agency advised people in sensitive health to take precautions wherever drift smoke or ash is present.

Multiple Cal Fire air tankers and water-dropping helicopters were making runs on the brusher during daylight hours.

A temporary flight restriction was established directly over the fire, barring civilian aircraft from coming within a 15-mile ring, from Hemet to Lake Hemet, well inside the San Bernardino National Forest.

Officials said the fire resulted in two civilian fatalities and one civilian burn injury. Sheriff’s officials confirmed Wednesday the two deceased victims were found inside a vehicle in the 42400 block of Avery Canyon Road in East Hemet Monday, apparently overcome by the flames while trying to leave. The two victims, who have not been identified, are believed to be related.

A woman, also believed to be related to the other victims, was found severely burned outside the vehicle. She was taken to a hospital and is expected to survive, according to a sheriff’s official.

At least seven buildings have been destroyed and several more were damaged.

More than 1,500 homes were affected by the evacuation orders earlier Tuesday. It was unclear how many more were added to the total when orders were expanded later in the day.

An evacuation center was set up at Tahquitz High School in Hemet.

The Department of Animal Services said the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus was accepting large and small domestic creatures, including livestock, for safekeeping. As of Monday night, 12 dogs, six cats and a pet rabbit were placed in the facility.

All fees for retaining pets will be waived under the county emergency order, agency spokesman John Welsh said.

Animal control officers have been patrolling the evacuation zone to search for stranded animals. No horses have been impounded, but “an officer provided water and food for a potbellied pig, and another officer provided water for a herd of goats,” Welsh said.

According to Caltrans, the following corridors were closed to southbound traffic in East Hemet: Stanford Street, Dartmouth Street, Cornell Street, Aurora Drive, Columbia Street, Yale Street, Girard Street, San Jacinto Street, Santa Fe Street, Meridian Street, Hemet Street, Lake Street and Fairview Avenue.

The cause of the fire was under investigation. In a document filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, Southern California Edison reported “circuit activity” in the area close to the time the fire erupted.

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