A wind-fanned wildfire broke out adjacent to the Riverside (91) Freeway on the Orange and Riverside counties border Monday and blackened about 1,500 acres within six hours, prompting evacuations across the Riverside County line in Corona.
Dubbed the Canyon Fire, the blaze broke out for unknown reasons about 1 p.m. alongside the eastbound Riverside Freeway, just west of Green River Road in west Corona, and initially spread at a “moderate” rate to Coal Canyon Road off the freeway, according to Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi.
The fire began spreading at a “rapid rate” around 3 p.m., according to Anaheim authorities.
The fire had burned about 1,500 acres as of 7 p.m., and while no injuries were reported, mandatory evacuations were ordered for about 300 homes – – affecting about 1,000 residents — in the Dominguez Ranch area of Corona, Concialdi said.
Evacuations were ordered on Dominguez Ranch Road, San Almada Road, San Ponte Road, San Viscaya Circle, San Sebastian Circle, San Ramon Drive, San Alvarado Road, Mt. Elena Circle, Mt. Tesoro, Mt. Palmas and Mt. Cantara Circle, according to the Corona Fire Department.
An evacuation shelter was set up in the gymnasium at Corona High School.
About 300 firefighters from the Anaheim, Corona, and Los Angeles County fire departments, as well as the OCFA, U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire were battling the blaze.
Five helicopters with night-vision capabilities and three planes, including a DC-10, were involved in the firefight, Concialdi said.
The big air tanker and some helicopters were grounded as night fell, the captain said.
Shifting Santa Ana winds were a cause for concern.
Crews were setting backfires, hoping to keep the fire from crossing the freeway.
Several lanes on the eastbound freeway at Coal Canyon Road were initially closed to make room for firefighting equipment, backing up traffic backed up for miles, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Only the far right lane was closed as of 4:30 p.m., but traffic had backed up to the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway, said CHP Officer Florentino Olivera.
For many commuting from the Inland Empire to Orange County, the Riverside Freeway is the only access point, Olivera said. “But we’re asking the public, if possible, to avoid the eastbound 91.”
Traffic had also slowed to a crawl on the 241 toll road, according to Concialdi.
Santa Ana winds blowing 20 to 25 mph were fanning the flames, according to reports from the scene.
Updated at 7:34 p.m. Sept. 25, 2017
–City News Service