Firefighters are inching toward full containment of the so-called Jerry Fire, which scorched 522 acres just east of Moreno Valley, threatened homes and prompted evacuations.
A team of three helicopters, five air tankers and 275 firefighters held the spread of flames Saturday and extended lines of cleared vegetation around the blaze to 95 percent, the Riverside County Fire Department said Saturday.
The non-injury blaze was first reported at 1 p.m. Friday in the area of Gilman Springs Road and Jerry Street, less than a mile south of the Moreno Valley (60) Freeway, in an area known as the Badlands, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.
The sparsely populated area is marked by rugged, hilly terrain difficult to access, except by dirt roads.
Sheriff’s deputies closed the north- and southbound lanes of Gilman Springs Road between Alessandro Boulevard and Highway 60 for public safety, diverting southbound traffic back into Moreno Valley and northbound traffic back into San Jacinto. The road was reopened at 3:15 p.m. Saturday, fire officials said.
At 10:30 a.m. Saturday, the California Highway Patrol closed the eastbound Moreno Valley (60) off-ramp at Gilman Springs Road as the fire inched dangerously close to the freeway and posed a safety issue for fire personnel. The off-ramp was reopened, but a CHP dispatcher did not know when.
According to the California Highway Patrol, a tractor-trailer going north on Gilman Springs Road may have sparked the fire when a component on its trailer fell onto the roadway and was dragged behind the truck, throwing sparks.
More than 20 engine crews and 10 inmate hand crews were sent to the location and encountered flames moving toward Laurene Lane, according to reports from the scene.
The fire split into two heads, and additional resources were summoned from cities throughout the region to establish containment lines.
The five Cal Fire air tankers and three water-dropping helicopters were called in to make runs on the blaze, which threatened 15 homes spread out between Gilman Springs and Jack Rabbit Trail, according to the fire department.
The residences were safely evacuated until 6:15 p.m. Friday when forward progress was stopped, officials said. One outbuilding was destroyed by the fire, they said.
Firefighters are expected to remain on the scene until the fire is fully contained.
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