10 A.M. THURSDAY, AUG 1 UPDATE: Many trails open today and Friday.
Several areas within the San Jacinto Ranger District and the San Jacinto State Park, closed by the Mountain Fire, will re-open today and tomorrow.
Within the National Forest, all areas north of the San Jacinto State Park, including Marion Mountain, Seven Pines and the Deer Springs trails, and Lake Fulmor, are now open.
These campgrounds will re-open today, Marion Mountain, Dark Canyon, Boulder Basin, Black Mountain and Fern Basin.
Within the State Park, visitors who take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to top will able to recreate in the Long Valley area; however the remainder of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park in this area remains temporarily closed.
The State Park will open Little Round Valley Camp, Strawberry Junction Camp and the areas west of the Deer Springs Trail.
The Pacific Crest Trail will remain closed from Strawberry Camp and Strawberry Junction to Highway 74 in Garner Valley. Through hikers will need to detour the fire area using either Marion Mountain or Deer Springs trail, to State Highway 243 and State Highway 74.
Forest and park officials will continue to evaluate the remaining closed areas over the coming weeks to identify when some or all may be eligible to re-open.
Public safety and resource protection concerns are the priority. While the Mountain Fire is contained, areas are still smoldering and hot and portions of various trails have been damaged by fire and runoff.
11:47 A.M. WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Fire officials declared the Mountain Fire 100 percent contained at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Residents and visitors may still see occasional smoke toward the fire's north end because of heavy fuels smoldering within the fire's perimeter.
A Burned Area Response Team is rapidly assessing the fire area. The BAER team will determine whether immediate actions are needed, including work to help stabilize soil; control water, sediment and debris movement; prevent impairment of ecosystems; mitigate significant threats to health, safety, life, property and downstream values at risk.
Portions of the San Jacinto Ranger District, including the San Jacinto Wilderness, remain closed to public use. The Pacific Crest Trail from Highway 74 to Snow Creek is closed. Mt. San Jacinto State Park is closed in all areas except Idyllwild State and Stone Creek campgrounds.
Total number of structures destroyed was 23, including seven residences. Total cost to date is $25.8 million.
10:30 A.M. SUNDAY UPDATE: News on the Mountain Fire status is slowing as containment approaches 100 percent. As of Sunday, July 28, containment was 98 percent and full containment is projected to be achieved Tuesday, July 30.
Below are both Thursday's and Saturday's Fire Maps so that you can compare progress:
Map for Saturday, July 27
Map for Thursday, July 25
Here is a list of the current open areas and remaining closures. San Jacinto District Ranger Arturo Delgado expects a preliminary assessment from the Burned Area Emergency Response team later this week. At that time, the Forest Service may make adjustments.
The Communities of: Idyllwild, Fern Valley, Pine Cove, Bonita Vista, Pine Springs, and Trails End
Palm Springs Aerial Tram
Hurkey Creek Campground has reopened for Camping Only Hiking and Biking Trails Remain Closed.
Idyllwild State Park and Stone Creek State Park
Lake Hemet Campground
All Forest Service Campground and Day-use areas located along Highway 243, Including Lake Fulmor, Black Mtn. Group Camp, Boulder Basin CG, Dark Canyon CG, Fern Basin CG, and Marion Mtn CG. Trail closures include Devils Slide, South Ridge, Deer Springs, Marion Mountain, 7 Pines, Black Mountain, and Fuller Ridge,trails, the Pacific Crest trail from Highway 74 (mile 152) to Strawberry Junction (mile 183) and all trails connecting to the Pacific Crest Trail, including: South Ridge, Carumba, Spitler Peak, Fobes, and Cedar Springs Trail.
San Bernardino National Forest Closure Orders 13-8 and 13-9 north of Highway 74 and east of Highway 243
San Jacinto Wilderness
Mt San Jacinto State Park is closed in all areas except for Idyllwild State Campground and Stone Creek Camp Grounds.
All hiking and mountain biking trails out of Hurkey Creek County Campground Area / May Valley Area..
11:00 A.M. SATURDAY UPDATE: The Forest Service reported that the Mountain Fire is now 96 percent contained. But they cautioned, "Residents and visitors may still see smoke towards the north end of the fire, due to the heavy fuels within the perimeter of the fire." Contained does not mean the fire is totally out.
Full containment is expected Tuesday, July 30. The Fire's cost has now exceeded $25 million.
A Burned Area Emergency Response Team (BAER) is now conducting a rapid assessment of the fire area. The BAER team will assess the fire damage and determine if immediate actions are necessary. Actions may include work to help stabilize soil; control water, sediment and debris movement; prevent impairment of ecosystems; mitigate significant threats to health, safety, life property and downstream values at risk.
5:05 P.M. UPDATE: Disaster relief for Mountain Fire properties
If the recent Mountain Fire in the area of Idyllwild and Pine Cove has damaged or destroyed your property, you may be eligible for property tax relief. The Riverside County Assessor's office will reappraise the property to reflect its damaged condition and it may retain its previous value for tax purposes, provided the property is rebuilt in a like or similar manner. To qualify, you must file an Application for Reassessment with the Assessor's office within 12 months from the date the property was damaged or destroyed. In addition, the loss must exceed $10,000.
A corrected property tax bill then will be issued for any Assessor-generated value reduction based on damage or destruction. The corrected bill will allow property owners time to pay the adjusted amount without penalty if issued after the delinquent dates. Visit http://www.asrclkrec.com/QuickLinks/News/DisasterReliefforMountainFireProperties.aspx for an application.
5:01 P.M. UPDATE: The Mountain Fire's containment, originally estimated to be 6 p.m. tonight, has been pushed back to 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 30, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
1:16 A.M. UPDATE: The Mountain Fire is now at 27,531 and 92 percent contained. Flash flood warnings were issued for 11 a.m. today, particularly in the Apple Canyon area. Cal Fire recommends that residents in that area evacuate.
Within the San Jacinto Ranger District, all U.S. Forest Service trails, road and campgrounds east of Highway 243 are closed. The Pacific Crest Trail from Highway 74 to Strawberry Junction, as well as all connecting trails, is closed.
The Palm Springs Tram is open. However, the San Jacinto State Park Wilderness and San Jacinto Wilderness both are closed.
Hurkey Creek County Park Campground is open but roads and trails within that area are closed.
10:24 A.M. UPDATE: Cal Fire investigators determine cause of Mountain Fire
Cal Fire investigators have determined the cause of the Mountain Fire to be an electrical equipment failure on private property. The electrical equipment failure occurred on the customer side of the meter. No further details will be released as this remains an ongoing investigation.
The Mountain Fire was reported at 1:43 p.m. Monday, July 15, near the junction of Highway 243 and Highway 74. It burned east of Mountain Center, through the Apple Canyon and Bonita Vista areas, and then along the Desert Divide and southern portion of the San Jacinto Wilderness. At one point the fire’s spread and intensity forced the evacuation of several mountain communities, including Mountain Center, Idyllwild, Fern Valley, and Pine Cove. Seven residential dwellings and 15 other structures were destroyed by the fire.
Cal Fire and the United States Forest Service/San Bernardino National Forest have been in unified command of the fire. More than 3,400 firefighting personnel from fire agencies throughout the state battled the fire with assistance from the following cooperating agencies; Riverside County Fire Department, Idyllwild Fire Protection District, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Riverside County Office of Emergency Services (OES), California Highway Patrol (CHP), American Red Cross, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California State Parks- San Jacinto State Park, California Conservation Corps (CCC), Riverside County Department of Transportation, Riverside County Flood Control, Lake Hemet Municipal Water District, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Southern California Edison, Idyllwild Water District, Fern Valley Water District and Pine Cove Water District.
As of 8 a.m. today the San Bernardino National Forest has assumed command of the fire and firefighters remain on the fireline to contain, mop-up, and control the fire.
2:30 P.M. UPDATE: The Mountain Fire is now 92 percent contained. Full containment is expected by 6 p.m. this Friday. The now smoldering fire continues to burn heavy dead or fallen trees and burned a total of 27,531 acres.
As of 6 a.m. this morning fire management transitioned to the San Bernardino National Forest team. Total fire personnel working on the fire is down to 146.
"Crews are continuing to mop up and patrol, scout and construct direct line and suppression repair," an Inciweb update reports. "A Burned Area Emergency Response Team (BAER) is now conducting a rapid assessment of the fire area. The BAER team will assess the fire damage and determine if immediate actions are necessary."
The Palm Springs Aerial Tram, Hurkey Creek Campground (camping only) and the Lake Hemet Campground are all open.
Residential restrictions and road closures have all been lifted, but much of the wild land and campgrounds remain closed.
All Forest Service campgrounds and day-use areas are closed. Trail closures include Devils Slide, South Ridge, Deer Springs, Marion Mountain, 7 Pines, Black Mountain and Fuller Ridge trails, the Pacific Crest trail from Highway 74 (mile 152) to Strawberry Junction (mile 183) and all trails connecting to the Pacific Crest Trail, including South Ridge, Carumba, Spitler Peak, Fobes and Cedar Springs trails.
The San Jacinto Wilderness and San Jacinto State Park Wilderness are closed, as well as all hiking and mountain biking trails out of Hurkey Creek County Campground Area and the May Valley Area.
5 P.M. WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The Incident Management Team and fire officials from the San Bernardino National Forest and its San Jacinto Ranger District met Wednesday afternoon, July 24 to arrange the return of authority to the Forest.
The IMT was called to action on the first day of the Mountain Fire, July 15. As of Wednesday, the team has the 27,531-acre 91 percent contained and expects full containment by 6 p.m., Wednesday.
The IMT staffing is now about 775 people, well below its peak of nearly 3,500.
IMT Commander Jeanne Pincha-Tulley repeated her team’s praise fo the evacuation plans developed through the Mountain Area Safety Taskforce meeting.
“The community should be awfully proud of MAST and the fuel breaks that have been put in place,” she said. “Both made a world of difference.”
The IMT’s plan addressed the immediate three days and a five-day sliding plan she said. By Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, when the full team was in place, Pincha-Tulley said she was always comfortable with it. "As long as there are options, we can fight it,” she said.
For example, along Idyllwild's immediate east, she said they created at least three lines of defense — bulldozer lines, retardant lines and hand crews.
The one contingency, for which they couldn’t plan, was rain, which she said did help Sunday. Since the first rain fell, she estimated that five to seven inches may have fallen on the top of the mountain.
“It’s a sea of mud,” Pincha-Tulley noted .
10:35 A.M. UPDATE: Zen Center hit hard after Mountain Fire and flash floods
By Jim Lakey
Mountain Center, CA — Apple Canyon Road was one of the worst hit areas during the Mountain Fire. Yokoji Zen Mountain Center is a residential Zen Buddhist training center and the last property on the road, right in the heart of the canyon. The fire burned through parts of the grounds but firefighters managed to defend all the structures and none were lost to fire. However, the rain storms formed mud slides in the canyon and the Zen Center was subject to the brunt of it.
The rain that falls is normally slowed down and absorbed by scrub oak, manzanita and other native plants and trees that line the canyon. The trees, scrub and grasses have all burned away and the top soil is scorched. The Zen Center is now an island of green in the middle of a blackened landscape. The rain forms heavy mud and with nothing left to prevent the flow, it rushes down into the valley. Until the forest regrows, the Zen Center will be subject to mud flows and flash floods through the coming years.
Over the last few days, a small team of Zen Center residents worked alongside the fire crews between the storms to protect the center. Channels were dug in the dirt, broken benches and washed-out foot bridges were pulled out of the stream bed, and sandbags were placed to protect the buildings. After the storms, the damage is clear. The two horizontal wells that supply water to the center were damaged by the fire and washed away by the deluge that followed. Lengths of the main water supply line have been broken. Elsewhere around the property, propane and electrical lines have been exposed and severed by debris caught up in the mudslides.
The stream bed could not hold all the water and mud during the storm; the main area of the property is now covered in thick mud. Large rocks were caught in the mud flow and are scattered around the property, many buried in the mud making them difficult to remove. The rolling door to the main workshop gave way and the shop is full of mud and debris, 12-14” deep.
The work has already begun, but it will take a long time before the damage is repaired.
7:15 A.M. UPDATE: The Incident Management Team is containing its nemesis, the Mountain Fire. As of Monday evening, July 22, the fire had burned 27,332 acres, but was 85 percent contained.
Full containment is expected tomorrow, Wednesday, July 24.
The fire officials stressed the larger size was not due to the fire spreading. Rather more accurate infrared mapping established the new area.
Today, firefighters will continue to patrol and monitor the fire’s perimeter. When conditions permit, crews will continue to construct direct line, mop up, patrol, and perform fire suppression repair.
Significant demobilization has started and a plan for turning the incident back to the San Bernardino National Forest is being developed. The number of personnel is now 1,146, less than a third of the peak, only Friday. Thus far, the fire has cost $22.8 million.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and Mount San Jacinto State Park are currently closed however; The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway will reopen tomorrow, July 23.
Mount San Jacinto State Park and Humber Park remain closed. The San Bernardino National Forest Closure Orders 13-8 and 13-9 are still in effect. The Pacific Crest Trail as well as connecting trails remain closed.
Yesterday, residents of the Apple Canyon and Bonita Vista roads areas received precautionary warnings about potential flash floods and mud slides from possible heavy monsoon rains. Idyllwild School was the temporary evacuation center. According to Ray Smith, Riverside County PIO, no one had used the center as of 6 p.m., Monday evening.
4:05 P.M. MONDAY UPDATE: The Idyllwild Transfer Station will be open Tuesday and Wednesday, July 23 and 24, normal hours 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This variation from the normal schedule is for this week only because of being closed last week due to the Mountain Fire.
4:00 P.M. MONDAY UPDATE Residents who are customers of Idyllwild and Fern Valley water districts do not need to boil their water. Both Districts treat the water before it enters the distribution system. Further, IWD's water comes from wells, not streams, therefore is free of ash and other debris. Fern Valley does divert some water, but the stream flows have diminished and is using a higher proportion of well water; but its water supply is treated first.
1:50 P.M. MONDAY UPDATE: Apple Canyon Road residents advised to evacuation — potential flash flooding
The following was posted 10 minutes ago.
The Riverside County Fire Department has placed an Evacuation Warning for residents to voluntary evacuate the area of Apple Canyon Road, north of Bonita Vista Road, due to the potential for flash flooding within the recent burn areas which could result in mudslides and debris flows. If you are concerned about your safety, it is recommended that you leave now.
At 1:36 p.m. the National Weather Service posted the following flash flood warning:
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN SAN DIEGO HAS ISSUED A
* FLASH FLOOD WARNING FOR...
SOUTH CENTRAL RIVERSIDE COUNTY IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA...
* UNTIL 430 PM PDT.
* AT 125 PM PDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED
A STRONG THUNDERSTORM FORMING OVER THE ANZA AREA WITH THE
POTENTIAL TO PRODUCE FLASH FLOODING. RADAR ESTIMATES RAINFALL
RATES OF CLOSE TO 3 INCHES PER HOUR FROM THIS THUNDERSTORM.
* ADDITIONAL AREAS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE AGUANGA.
1:00 P.M. UPDATE:
The current map of the Mountain Fire and a close-up shot of the northern end of the fire:
11:15 A.M. MONDAY UPDATE:
As of Monday morning, the Mountain Fire has burned 27,265 acres and is 68 percent contained. This morning, the Incident Team has revised the full containment estimate to Wednesday, July 24.
In just the past two days, the number of firefighting personnel assigned to this Fire has been significantly reduced from the peak of nearly 3,500. However, the team still has 1,861 firefighters, 87 engines, 13 helicopters, and seven fixed wing aircraft, including one DC-10.
This is from today's report, "Significant rainfall occurred over the fire area which reduced fire intensity. Today, the National Weather Service has forecast thunderstorms with the potential for flash flooding and debris flows. In response to these risks, some areas of the Mountain Fire will not be staffed. Firefighters will continue to patrol and monitor the fire perimeter. When conditions permit, crews will continue to construct direct line, mop up, and patrol, and engage in suppression repair."
3:30 P.M. SUNDAY UPDATE:
Riverside County Sheriff’s Office held a 2 p.m. press conference at the Lake Hemet station today to formally announce this morning's lifting of the evacuation order for Idyllwild and Fern Valley and the evacuation warning for Pine Cove.
Capt. Scot Collins of the Hemet station re-enforced that residents, business owners and employees will need a permit to return to town until late tonight.
“This area will open to the public by 11 p.m. tonight,” Collins affirmed. “There will continue to be patrols of heavy sheriff presence.”
Collins also asked people not to make 9-1-1 calls for fire conditions and updates. (These are available on the Town Crier web site, idyllwildtowncrier.com).
As many of the fire officials from outside Riverside County noted, Collins stressed the value of unified command structure and the extensive pre-planning efforts completed through the Mountain Area Safety Taskforce.
He also urged residents to maintain caution returning to town now, especially because of the rain.
Mountain Fire Incident Commander Jeanne Pincha-Tulley, who with other unified command leaders, including Riverside County officials Chiefs John Hawkins and Glenn Patterson, attended the press conference.
“The morning rain brought about an inch to 1-½ inches to the east side of San Jacinto Peak,” she reported. “This storm [in mid-afternoon] is more widespread. Rain is falling all over the fire area. There were no thunderstorms this morning but just enough rain.
“The rain is our version of aerial delivery of water,” said Pincha-Tulley. Rain is possible from Sunday night through Monday and Tuesday morning.
“The weather allowed us to attack the fire,” said Hawkins. “It knocked down the flames. The benefit of the rain not only helped put the fire out but allowed us to end the evacuation.”
Sunday’s extensive rain may accelerate the fire’s containment two to three days, according to Pincha-Tulley. Without the rain, the evacuation orders may not have been lifted until Sunday night or Monday.
Patterson stressed the continuing concern for flash floods and mudslides. He added that one mudslide has already been reported in the Bonita Vista area.
During the evacuation, Idyllwild Fire had several calls, including two medical requests, said Chief Patrick Reitz. The fire calls were false alarms due to the winds, smoke and tree movements.
12:39 P.M. SUNDAY UPDATE:
10:02 A.M. SUNDAY UPDATE: You will need a permit to get back into Idyllwild. Permits will be issued after 11 a.m. today. Permitting stations are at Banning High School, USFS Cranston Guard Station and Lake Hemet. You will need proof of residence or employment to get a permit. You will need a permit to get past the road closure. The road closures stay in effect until after 11 p.m. today. Residents, business owners or employees will be permitted back in. There will be continued law enforcement presence in Idyllwild. No structural damage or property damage in Idyllwild and Pine Cove. But there will be plenty of fire equipment remaining so be cautious when driving. Some residents might find some of the stuff outside their home rearranged. This was done by fire personnel as a precaution in case the fire came into Idyllwild.
9:45 A.M. SUNDAY UPDATE: Rain fell on the Mountain Fire Sunday morning. Total rain was between 1 inch and 1 ½ inch, depending on the location. More fire lines were constructed yesterday.
As of 9:30 a.m., there has been no announcement of the lifting of the evacuation order for Idyllwild. However the Incident Management Team has already begun releasing resources, including seven of 11 Type 1 helicopters.
Saturday afternoon, the Trails End and Camp Joe Scherman evacuations were lifted.
The Fire’s size is about 27,245 acres, of which 49 percent is contained. Fire lines were constructed along Southridge yesterday. Five strike team ascended to Long Valley via the Palm Springs Tramway and established a camp yesterday.
Fire team officials reported an uneventful night on the fire. “I’m glad we got the rains,” said Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz. No forward progress is anticipated today.
Despite the drenching effect of the rains, the precipitation does bring potential problems for firefighters in the field. Weather team leader Kurt Van Speybrock told the team leaders that a flash flood warning for this afternoon had already been issued because of the possibility of thunder storms and heavy rains, perhaps another inch or more. The winds are expected to come from the east.
“The real challenge today is that slips, trips and falls have a new meaning if there are mud flows or flash floods,” warned Incident Commander Jeanne Pincha-Tulley.
Resource adviser Christina La Lumiere warned the team leaders about the presence of rattlesnakes in the area and the cloud cover might encourage them to come out in greater numbers today. “Do not kill the rattlesnakes,” she urged them.
As of Sunday morning, total resources have fallen to 2,678 firefighters from Saturday morning’s high of 3,478. The Fire’s cost has grown more than 50 percent to $19.9 million.
4:05 P.M. SATURDAY UPDATE: The mandatory evacuation order for Fern Valley and Idyllwild, as well as the voluntary evacuation order Pine Cove, will NOT be lifted today, said Riverside County Sheriff's Public Information Officer Lisa McConnell. Highway 243 from Banning to the Idyllwild Nature Center is open for all traffic, however.
"We're hoping [to lift the orders] soon," she said. She said it depends on wind and rain conditions on the Mountain Fire.
She said evacuation orders have been lifted for the Trails End, Morris Ranch and Joe Scherman Camp areas. Residents only are allowed to return to the Apple Canyon and Bonita Vista areas.
Mountain Fire weather officials reported that the threat of thundershowers has ended today. The next weather threat, however, is light rains starting at nightfall with moderate rain from 2 a.m. to sunrise. This condition could hinder ground crews if flash flooding occurs.
3:47 P.M. SATURDAY UPDATE: Congressman visits disaster area
Idyllwild Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz (CA-D) visited the Mountain Fire Incident Command Post this afternoon and also some of the homes that burned early this week in the fire.
Ruiz spoke highly of the Interagency Management Team and the cooperation among the various federal, state and local agencies.
Incident Commander Jeanne Pincha-Tulley briefed the congressman on the status of the Mountain Fire, its start and progression during the week as well as the decision to impose an evacuation. She stressed that the fire was moving 5,000 acres each day at the beginning and a weather change was predicted. Evacuation was prudent and safety need.
Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins praised Sheriff Stan Sniff’s staff for implementing the evacuation so efficiently. “Sheriff Sniff committed more than 100 officers to the effort as well as protecting the community and homes after the residents left.”
Hawkins recommended that Ruiz try to help secure funding to maintain the fuelbreaks that have been constructed around town. “We want to assure funding for public safety,” Hawkins implored Ruiz.
The congressman promised to amplify the voices of the incident team and local officials who have spent years and endless hours to ensure the Hill’s protection. “Except for your preparation, more homes and people could have been injured and devastated,” he said. “I will inform all levels of government, including the White House, of the extraordinary teamwork and collaboration.”
The recent Arizona firefighter fatalities bring the risk that the on-the-ground firefighter takes to the public’s and politician’s attention, Ruiz said. Thus he was very encouraged with the level of interagency cooperation and collaboration displayed on this incident and in Riverside County.
“It could have been much worse if it weren’t for the preparation taken years before,” he acknowledged.
2:58 P.M. SATURDAY UPDATE: Here's the fire information map from this morning. The link disappeared earlier.
1:58 P.M. SATURDAY UPDATE: Between now and 7 p.m., thundershowers are very likely in the San Jacinto Mountains with a southwest wind at 10 mph. Downward wind gusts are possible at 30 mph with another possibility of small hail.
1:39 P.M. SATURDAY UPDATE: The mandatory evacuation of Trails End has been lifted as of 1 p.m., according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Office.
1:16 P.M. SATURDAY UPDATE Chris Tota of Idyllwild sent this photo.
"Couldn't just sit around and do nothing," he wrote. "Made $76 for victims before the drizzle shut me down. I was in Dana Point Harbor this morning, trying to hit up the fishing and boating crowd without drawing attention from police. LOL. Wasnt sure if it was legal."
12:48 P.M. SATURDAY UPDATE: No change in fire acreage from this morning and still 25 percent contained.
10:55 A.M. SATURDAY UPDATE: Mountain Fire city
By J.P. Crumrine
Although the town of Idyllwild, several thousand people, has been evacuated, a mobile city of about 3,500 people has quickly been constructed in Garner Valley.
Mountain Fire city is a company town — nearly 3,300 firefighting professionals. With that many people, where do they work, eat and sleep?
The company business is to contain and eventually control a 25,000-acre wildland fire. The Mountain Fire is not burning in timberland criss-crossed with access roads. This fire chose to birth itself in steep terrain — wilderness that rises from 5,000 to 9,000 feet in an extremely dry summer.
While crews are building fire lines, back at camp, a kitchen crew of several trucks is preparing to feed 3,000 residents. As Tom Efird, Incident team PIO, says, “There’s only one restaurant in town.”
Hundreds of sinks, showers and laundry facilities — with 24-hour service — had to be brought to the site as well. During morning and evening briefings, the safety message includes a warning to be sure to wash in order to avoid “camp crud.”
Water has to be plentiful, not just for cleanliness. Once on the job site, firefighters can take a coffee break and drive back to town. Before each shift they have to load the vehicles with cases of water to ensure against dehydration on the job.
Mountain Fire city is comparable to a small town. It has its own medical staff, who speak during the briefing, human resources and local communication (radios) staff as well. The city also has a post office, courtesy of Lake Hemet Market.
In addition, the team has biological, botanical and archeological resource experts. These people try to assure protection of those assets during the fire protection activities. For example, Friday’s forester advised that fire crews not land helicopters in Hidden Lake.
During the briefings, George Broyles, team information officer, provides sports reports such as announcing the commencement of the national curling championships.
And photocopying services are an important component of the town. At each briefing (two daily), team leaders have a report of the day or night’s activity and other special messages. Each report can be 10 to 15 double-sided pages.
Many of the support services, such as cooking, laundry and supplying fuel are provided through contracts with the Forest Service or CalFire.
Consequently, the population figure of 3,316 underestimates the number of people who have come to the Hill’s protection.
9:48 A.M. SATURDAY UPDATE: An image of the Mountain Fire taken by NASA.
9:45 A.M. SATURDAY UPDATE: Yesterday the the San Jacinto Ranger District issued two orders 13-8 and 13-9 closing the forest to visitors and non-essential personnel. Below is a copy of 13-8 and the language and also the maps of the areas to which orders 13-8 and 13-9 apply.
ORDER NO. 13-8 EMERGENCY CLOSURES SAN BERNARDINO NATIONAL FOREST
Pursuant to 16 USC 551 and 36 CFR 261.50(a) and (b), and to protect natural resources and provide for public safety, the following acts are prohibited on the San Jacinto Ranger District within the San Bernardino National Forest. This Order is effective from July 17, 2013, through the end of the official fire emergency.
1. Going into or being upon National Forest System lands within the Mountain Fire Closure Area, as shown on Exhibit A. 36 CFR 261.52(e).2. Being on National Forest System roads within the Mountain Fire Closure Area, as shown on Exhibit A. 36 CFR 261.54(e).3. Being on National Forest System trails within the Mountain Fire Closure Area, as shown on Exhibit A. 36 CFR 261.55(a).
Pursuant to 36 CFR 261.50(e), the following persons are exempt from this Order:
1. Any Federal, State or local officer, or member of an organized rescue or fire fighting force in the performance of an official duty.2. Persons with a permit from the Forest Service specifically authorizing the otherwise prohibited act or omission.3. Owners or lessees of private land within the Mountain Fire Closure Area, to the extent necessary to gain access to their land.
These prohibitions are in addition to the general prohibitions in 36 CFR Part 261, Subpart A.A violation of these prohibition is punishable by a fine of not more than $5000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both 16 USC 551 and 18 USC 3559, 3571, and 3581.Done at San Bernardino, California, this 17th day of July, 2013. Jody Noiron Forest Supervisor
Below are the maps of the two areas
9:00 A.M. SATURDAY UPDATE: In response to Riverside County's proclamation of local emergency due to the Mountain Fire, on Friday, July 19, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation for Riverside County, in response to the recent wildfire that has destroyed residences, threatened thousands of homes and commercial properties and caused evacuations.
Earlier on Friday, Assemblymembers Brian Nestande, (R- Palm Desert) and Brian Jones, (R-Santee) both submitted a request to Governor Brown and California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) Director Ghilarducci to declare a State of Emergency in the County of Riverside due to the Idyllwild Mountain Fire. The fire is threating both the 42nd and 71st Assembly Districts.
8:30 A.M. SATURDAY UPDATE: The Mountain Fire’s growth was very limited last night. The current size is 27,278, a 99-acre change from Friday evening. Today is beginning much like yesterday, cloud cover and higher humidity.
Fire officials reported that Friday night was relatively quiet. They continued to use the nightflying helicopter especially on the western perimeter of the Fire. Fire lines were established along Southridge yesterday. Many crews are now being staged in Idyllwild in case of a sudden change. But as work on the Southern edge is progressing, more resources are being assigned to the west and north.
Today, two hotshot crews will use the Palm Springs Tramway to enter the backcountry and begin work on the northern tip of the Mountain Fire. These are the first units in the area. They may, if it is safe, establish a “spike camp”, according to Norm Rooker, a team information officer.
The southern perimeter is “Looking good, really, really good” according to the team. And there is not much movement on the eastern perimeter.
The 30 percent of rainfall creates safety concerns for firefighters for several reasons. A sudden very heavy downpour can create flashflood and possible injuries. The erratic wind behavior might affect the fire’s behavior in unexpected and dangerous ways. And finally, the possibility of lightning strikes, late this afternoon, could move the fire into new locations.
But the Incident Management Commander Jeanne Pincha-Tulley, stressed to unit leaders to “… take care of crews because the cloud cover would make access difficult in case of injury.” To clarify her point, she added be sure of safety because a rainstorm could quickly become ‘Camp Mud’.
The number of personnel fighting the Mountain Fire remains at 3,478. The cost of the Fire is now $12.2 million.
7:30 P.M. FRIDAY UPDATE: Although the Mountain Fire is growing, fire officials generally were happy with the results they said in this evening's briefing. The current burned acreage is 27,170 acres and containment is about 15 percent. Personnel assigned to the fire is nearly 3,500.
The fire continues to have bursts on the northern boundary, it moved and is still moving within the San Jacinto wilderness and in the direction of San Jacinto Peak. Spotting (embers through the air lighting fuels on landing) rather than walls of flames spurred the Fire’s movement. However, the rate of growth slowed, aided by the morning weather when clouds kept the fire’s smoke lower and that shaded the fire.
The team’s objective is to keep the fire south of South Ridge and the San Jacinto Peak. Better fire lines were constructed along the Ernie Maxwell Trail today, according to several officials.
The afternoon clearing allowed the fire to produce another large smoke cloud over the town, which headed west.
Work on the southern edge of the fire is progressing well and movement was very limited in that area.
Incident Commander Jeanne Pincha-Tulley, in encouraging safety, warned her leadership team about how dry the vegetation is even in the wilderness area. “A green meadow at the 8,400-foot elevation burned as if it were dry, which is not a good sign,” she said.
The weather forecast for tomorrow, Saturday has a 20 percent chance of rain. Consequently, rainfall and thunderstorm readiness plans were distributed during the evening briefing.
4:39 P.M. FRIDAY UPDATE: Edison has restored the power to the Bonita Vista area. Power will be restored to the Apple Canyon area within 12 to 24 hours, according to a Mountain Fire official.
4:28 P.M. FRIDAY UPDATE: Assembly members Nestande and Jones request Governor Brown to declare State of Emergency in Riverside County
Today, Assemblymembers Brian Nestande, (R- Palm Desert) and Brian Jones, (R-Santee) submitted a request to Gov. Jerry Brown and California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) Director Ghilarducci to declare a State of Emergency in the County of Riverside due to the Mountain Fire. The fire is threatening both the 42nd and 71st Assembly districts.
The Idyllwild fire has already burned more than 26,000 acres and the County of Riverside signed a Declaration of Emergency on Thursday. Last night, the fire entered San Jacinto Park and has already burned between 450 and1,000 acres. This is also the critical habitat of the endangered Bighorn Sheep. CalOES has requested the California National Guard to provide two C-130 aircraft to perform aerial firefighting operations as well.
“This fire is disastrous for our community. Lives and homes are threatened and the financial damage is already astronomical. We are working closely with local and state agencies to make sure that our first responders have all the resources they need to continue battling this blaze. We ask that you pray for their safety and the safety of the residents that are in harm’s way,” said Nestande.
This fire is extremely dangerous and is exacerbated by fuel conditions in very steep, rugged and inaccessible terrain. Cal Fire has determined that the conditions are similar to that of the Yarnell Fire in Arizona that claimed the lives of 19 elite firefighters, two of which were Hemet residents.
“These conditions make for a perfect storm of devastation for the communities of Idyllwild, Fern Valley and Morris Ranch. I join with Assemblyman Nestande in any support my office can provide and offer prayers of safety – for homeowners and firefighters alike,” said Jones.
CalFire and its partners have more than 3,300 personnel on the ground the cost of battling the blaze has already exceeded $8 million. State recognition of the disaster declaration will provide significant and much-needed resources to the County and will aid them in seeking Federal disaster relief as well.
3:32 P.M. FRIDAY UPDATE: Boil your water before using it
Failure to follow this advisory could result in stomach or intestinal illness.
Due to the recent Mountain Fire affecting communities in the San Jacinto Mountains near Pine Springs, Fern Valley, Apple Canyon, Hurkey Creek and Idyllwild, the California Department of Public Health, in conjunction with the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health and Riverside County Public Health Department, and Pine Creek and Zen Mountain Water Systems are advising residents of areas near Pine Springs Camp, Ronald McDonald Camp (also known as Rainbow Camp), Bonita Vista Road, Living Free Animal Sanctuary, Fleming Ranch, May Valley Road, Zen Center, Hurkey Creek and Apple Canyon Road to use boiled tap water or bottled water for drinking, ice and cooking purposes as a safety precaution.
Do not drink the water without boiling it first. Bring all water to a boil, let it boil for one minute, and let it cool before using, or use bottled water. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking and food preparation until further notice. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water.
An alternative method of disinfection for residents that are not able to boil their water is to use fresh, unscented, liquid household bleach. To do so, add eight drops (or 1/8 teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of clear water or 16 drops (or 1/4 teaspoon) per gallon of cloudy water, mix thoroughly, and allow to stand for 30 minutes before using. A chlorine-like taste and odor will result from this disinfection procedure and is an indication that adequate disinfection has taken place.
Water disinfection tablets may also be used by following the manufacturer’s instructions. The county will inform you when tests show that water is safe to drink and you no longer need to boil your water. It anticipates resolving the problem within two to three days.
For more information call:
Water Utility contact: Zen Mountain 951-659-5272; Pine Springs Ranch 951-659-4131 California Department of Public Health – Drinking Water Field Operations Branch- District Office at 619-525-4354.
Local Environmental Health Jurisdiction: Riverside County at 951-955- 8982.
3:19 P.M. FRIDAY UPDATE: Apple Canyon Road and Bonita Vista Road are open now, according to Riverside County Office of Emergency Services Deputy Director Peter Lent. Zen Mountain Center suffered no damage.
2:57 P.M. FRIDAY UPDATE: According to Hemet Sheriff's Capt. Scot Collins, deputies are staging at Pine Cove Market for two reasons. One is in case the sheriff's office receives Mandatory Evacation orders from the Mountain Fire commanders. Collins was with the commanders at the time of the interview and said those orders had not been made.
The second reason is because when the Voluntary Evacuation order was issued this morning, a lot of people heeded the warning and left. So, the deputies also are there to protect the vacant homes from burglaries.
2:29 P.M. FRIDAY UPDATE: The fire is behaving as fire officials had hoped it would today, staying in the northern end, said Mountain Fire Public Information Officer Tom Efird. Firefighters have managed to keep the fire east of the ridgeline that protects Idyllwild and Pine Cove. This afternoon is critical but if the weather cooperates, they hope to run the fire north into rocks where it will burn itself out.
Rumors are spreading that Pine Cove is under mandatory evacuation now. Efird had no knowledge of that.
11:33 A.M. FRIDAY UPDATE: Fobes Ranch Road in Garner Valley is closed to all traffic except ranchers because of helicopter operations in the area. Morris Ranch Road in Garner Valley is under a hard closure because of the potential for more flare-ups in the area.
11 A.M. FRIDAY UPDATE: The Riverside County Sheriff's Department has issued an Evacuation Warning for the community of Pine Cove. They are recommending that any community members who feel threatened should evacuate. All residents in the area should prepare for a possible Evacuation Order and be ready to leave if an Order is issued.
Weather conditions today create the possibility of extreme fire growth. A large smoke and ash column may form in the northwest area of the fire. Large smoke columns have the potential to create thunderstorms which may lead to lightning and strong winds. With the current unstable atmosphere the column may raise high enough to form an ice cap. Eventually the weight of the ice will cause the column to collapse. When the column collapses strong downdraft winds push the fire in multiple directions placing firefighters at risk.
Spot fires ahead of the main fire may be caused from embers in the smoke column and from the downdraft winds.
Air tankers and helicopters continue to work along the northwest side of the fire to secure the established firelines and minimize fire growth. This area remains the highest priority on the fire.
10:13 A.M. FRIDAY UPDATE: Gary's Deli is open to firefighters, law enforcement, media and the small number of residents who didn't leave town.
Gary Budnik has been working in his deli throughout the fire, offering specials for the firefighters, until 3 or 3:30 p.m. He also is staying overnight in the deli with his German shepherd-mix, Chip, an ARF rescue dog who also is an Idyllwild councilman and won the Mr. Idyllwild award in last weekend's ARF Pet Expo.
9:32 A.M. FRIDAY UPDATE: County proclaims local emergency as Mountain Fire grows beyond 22,800 acres
Riverside County proclaimed a local emergency today because of the Mountain Fire, a step that could make the county eligible to receive disaster funds if state and federal officials recognize the emergency and make assistance available.
With a proclamation, the county could be eligible to receive reimbursement for the costs of the emergency response if funding becomes available, a process that can take months. On Thursday, the fire surpassed 22,800 acres in the San Jacinto mountains. The proclamation notes that the fire poses extreme danger to people and property in mountain communities, including Idyllwild, Trails End, Mountain Center, Bonita Vista, Apple Canyon, Pine Springs Ranch, Garner Valley and Lake Hemet. County Executive Officer Jay Orr signed the proclamation around 2:30 p.m. because the Board of Supervisors was not in session. The proclamation will go to the board at its next regular meeting to be ratified.
Supervisor Jeff Stone, who was in Idyllwild Thursday, said the fire’s extreme danger continues and that he hopes state and federal funds become available as soon as possible.
“We hope the state and federal government recognize the disaster, and that the weather cooperates so our fire teams have a better chance to get the blaze under control,” he said.
8:58 A.M. FRIDAY UPDATE: Highway 243 is under hard closure from Mountain Center to the Idyllwild Nature Center, according to Bob Poole, a Mountain Fire public information officer. He is hearing conflicting points on whether Highway 74 is closed from Mountain Center to Hemet. A California Highway Patrol officer stationed at the Nature Center said the closure went into effect at 2 a.m. today and that another closure is at Indian Vista Point.
8:30 A.M. FRIDAY UPDATE:
Friday morning, the fifth day of the 24,500-acre Mountain Fire, brings good news on the limited expansion of the fire during the night, but grave concern about the possible turns which might occur today as a result of the winds that may accompany the monsoonal weather pattern. And if rain joins the party, firefighters will be pleased.
More than 3,300 firefighters are on the Hill facing the Mountain Fire and its cost has grown to more than $8.5 million. No major injuries have occurred.
Of the 24,500 acres, nearly 95 percent (23,400) are federal lands.
In general it was a quiet night on the fire lines, according to Gordan Martin, the planning chief.
The changing weather brings several threats. First, “It’s favorable for column down drafts and possible isolated lightning strikes,” said Rob Balfour, the weather expert. But there were some early reports of light rain at higher altitudes this morning.
While the possibility of increased moisture may dampen the fire, the northern edge is still growing slowly and headed toward San Jacinto Peak, according to fire behavior expert Dennis Burns. As of Friday morning, the burning edge is still to the east of the ridgeline, but approaching Hidden Lake.
Firefighters will continue to try to secure the Antsell Rock area; meanwhile some crews will be working along the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail today.
7:30 P.M. THURSDAY UPDATE:
Fire officials felt that Thursday was a good day combating the Mountain Fire. While acreage and containment estimates are about the same as this morning, fire officials feel they are now fighting two fires — one on the southern edge and one on the northern flank closer to Idyllwild.
A lot of fire retardant has been dropped there. Not only was a DC10 used but two Air Force Reserve C130s were deployed today.
The retardant drops appeared successful, according John Lane, Operations section. "Everything seems to be looking fairly decent at this time. We'll see in the morning."
Dennis Burns, fire behavior analyst, agreed and stressed how dry the vegetation and fuels already are. Logs on the ground are turning to white ash," he said.
Consequently until there is more containment of the fire, Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz emphasized that the evacuation order has not been lifted despite optimistic hopes on social media sites.
"There is no forecast when it may be lifted," he said. "We want it to be absolutely safe."
5 P.M. THURSDAY UPDATE: Two air tankers out of the Channel Islands in Ventura County are rotating drops on the Mountain Fire. The C130s are with the Air Force Reserves' 146th air wing, said Public Information Officer Tom Efird. The tanker has a Modular Airborne Firefighting System that is a self-continued unit of five pressurized retardant tanks versus a gravity-drop system. They are capable of carrying 2,700 gallons of retardant.
"We're glad to have them here with us," said Efird.
3:12 P.M. THURSDAY UPDATE: Health officials warn San Jacinto Mountain communities about dangers of smoke
Riverside County health officials are warning residents of the San Jacinto Mountain communities the fire that has scorched thousands of acres could have an impact on their health through the smoke and ash the flames are generating.
Health officials are worried that residents of the mountain communities, including Idyllwild, Pine Cove, Mountain Center, Pinyon Pines, the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley, the Coachella Valley and the San Gorgonio Pass area could be harmed by prolonged exposure to smoke and ash.
“The dangers from a fire of this size not only come from the flames, but also the smoke and ash that the fire generates,” said Susan Harrington, director of the County of Riverside Department of Public Health. “There are small steps that residents can take to prevent the smoke from impacting their lives. It is important that residents recognize the smoke presents a health hazard.”
Wildfire smoke, which is a mixture of small particles, gases and water vapor, is covering portions of the western county and could cause residents health problems ranging from burning eyes, runny nose, shortness of breath, scratchy throat, headaches, chest pains and a variety of health problems. The smoke can also worsen conditions related to asthma, chronic heart and lung disease.
The American Lung Association has some general recommendations for those in areas where smoke is present.
People living in close proximity to the fire-stricken areas should remain indoors and avoid inhalation of smoke, ashes, and particulate matter in the area. Ordinary dust masks, designed to filter out large particles, will not help as they still allow the more dangerous smaller particles to pass through.
If you live close to or in the surrounding area, it's recommended that you refrain from exercising outdoors, especially if you smell smoke or experience eye or throat irritation.
Extra precautions should be taken for children, who are more susceptible to smoke because their respiratory systems are still developing and they breathe in more air (and consequently more pollution) per pound of body mass than adults.
When driving your car through smoky areas, keep your windows and vents closed. Air conditioning should only be operated in the "recirculate" setting.
People with respiratory problems or chronic heart disease should:
Stay inside as much as possible, with doors, windows and fireplace dampers shut and preferably with clean air circulating through air conditioners and/or air cleaners. Use air conditioners on the recirculation setting so outside air will not be moved into the room.
Due to the higher levels of pollutants in some areas, there is a possibility of experiencing increased symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms, contact your physician. Asthma patients can follow the asthma action plan developed with their physician. Use your peak flow meter as prescribed. Do not hesitate to take your medication.
If outdoor trips in smoky areas are necessary, breathe through a damp cloth to help filter out particles in the air.
People with asthma should check with their physician regarding any changes in medication that may be needed to cope with the smoky conditions.
If pulmonary symptoms are not relieved by the usual medications, seek medical attention. Symptoms to watch for include wheezing, shortness of breath, difficulty taking a full breath, chest heaviness, light headedness or dizziness. If you have any concerns or questions, please contact your physician.
If you develop a persistent cough or have difficulty breathing, call your physician. The onset
2:48 P.M. THURSDAY UPDATE: Palm Springs offers discounted room rates for Mountain Fire evacuees
Palm Springs hotels are offering discounted room rates for residents and its visitors affected by the Mountain Fire in nearby Idyllwild. Below is a list of participating Palm Springs properties offering special rates for Mountain Fire evacuees and are listed on the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism’s website, www.VisitPalmSprings.com <http://www.VisitPalmSprings.com> . The City of Palm Springs is safe and open for business.
POSH Palm Springs Hotel <http://www.visitpalmsprings.com/overview/stay/posh-palm-springs/18891>
530 E Mel Avenue, Palm Springs
Special Rate: $50.00 per night plus tax
Promo Code: MTfirerate
Reservation by phone only: 760-992-5410
Disclaimer: Must show ID or proof of residency in the fire area
The Curve Palm Springs <http://www.visitpalmsprings.com/overview/stay/the-curve-palm-springs-hotel/10533>
333 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
Special Rate: $50.00 per night plus tax
Promo Code: MC
Reservation by phone only: 760-327-1211
Courtyard by Marriott <http://www.visitpalmsprings.com/overview/stay/courtyard-by-marriott/10516>
1300 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs
Special Rate: $79.00 per night plus tax (sold out July 19)
Promo Code: Mountain Fire
Reservations by phone only: 760-322-6100
Riviera Palm Springs <http://www.visitpalmsprings.com/overview/stay/riviera-palm-springs/10877>
1600 N Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
Special Rate: $79 Sunday-Friday, $149 on Saturday’s per night plus tax
Promo Code: FIRE
Reservations by phone only: 866-588-8311
Disclaimers: Guests need to book in advance. 1 night deposit required at time of booking. Taxes and resort fee are additional. Rate valid through August 1, 2013. Guests need to provide valid ID showing current residential address in order to receive the rate. Rate is for displaced residents only.
Los Arboles Hotel <http://www.visitpalmsprings.com/overview/stay/los-arboles-hotel/88292>
784 N Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
Special Rate: $49/night per night plus tax
Promo Code: Mountain Fire Rate
Reservations by phone only: 760-459-3605
Disclaimers: Cannot accommodate dogs or cats.
Hotel California <http://www.visitpalmsprings.com/overview/stay/hotel-california/10547>
424 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
Special Rate: $99/night per night plus tax
Promo Code: Mountain Fire Residents
Reservations by phone only: 760-322-8855
Disclaimers: Maximum two adults per room, no children and no pets.
Desert Riviera Hotel <http://www.visitpalmsprings.com/overview/stay/desert-riviera-hotel/10519>
610 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
Special Rate: $99 per night plus tax
Promo Code: MFR
Reservations by phone only:760-327-5314
Disclaimers: Please request MFR rate at the time of booking.
Maximum two adults per room, no children, and no pets. Good thru July 25th, 2013
Casa Cody Bed & Breakfast <http://www.visitpalmsprings.com/overview/stay/casa-cody-country-inn/10542>
175 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs
Special Rate: $69 per night plus tax
Promo Code: Randa
Reservations by phone only: 760-320-9346
Disclaimers: This special rate is only for weekdays not on weekends.
Hilton Palm Springs <http://www.visitpalmsprings.com/overview/stay/hilton-palm-springs/10103>
400 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way Palm Springs
Special Rate: $95 per night plus tax
Promo Code: MFR
Reservations by phone only: 760-320-6868
Disclaimers: Please be aware that Hilton Hotel does require a deposit at the time of booking to guarantee the reservation. “MFR” rate is subject to availability.
Del Marcos Hotel <http://www.visitpalmsprings.com/overview/stay/del-marcos-hotel/10543>
225 W. Baristo Road Palm Springs
Special Rate: $79 per night plus tax
Reservations by phone only: 800-676-1214
Disclaimers: Adults Only, Some pet friendly rooms available. Guests must show proof of residency in affected area.
Palm Mountain Resort <http://www.visitpalmsprings.com/overview/stay/palm-mountain-resort-and-spa/10526>
Special rate: $49 rate beginning on Sunday 7/21 until 7/26. ($12 resort fee waived)
Reservations by phone only: 760-325-1301
Promo Code: FIRE
2:15 P.M. THURSDAY UPDATE: Mandatory Evacuation to stay in effect
By J.P. Crumrine
Fire team officials held a press conference in Idyllwild Thursday afternoon. Jeanne Pincha-Tulley, Incident Management Team commander, told the assembled media corps and public that the Mountain Fire was the number one priority in the nation.
While firefighters have gained traction on the southern and western edges of the fire, a heavy inversion this morning has prevented a retardant saturation of the wilderness area north and south of Saddle Junction. “There’s no clear target,” Pincha-Tulley lamented.
If the sky clears more this afternoon, Pincha-Tulley expects a massive air attack on the area above the town. But until they are confident that the fire will not burn near Southridge, they will continue to be concerned about its expansion from embers thrown into unburned areas as well as the residential and business neighborhoods.
Exacerbating fire officials’ concerns is the forecast of monsoonal weather this weekend. “There’s no guarantee of rain, and it could bring winds and lightning,” she said.
“So embers can drop anywhere in the next two days over top of the town and very steep slopes,” Pincha-Tulley warned.
The mandatory evacuation initiated Wednesday evening has been a success, according to Riverside County Sheriff’s Capt. Scot Collins. He estimated that less than 5 percent of residents didn't comply with the order.
One important reason for the success was the existence of fire plans, including evacuation plans, that the Mountain Area Safety Taskforce has prepared over the past several years. Their existence saved much time, according to Pincha-Tulley.
“The evacuation was effective thanks to the MAST and county fire’s and the sheriff’s preparation,” said Unified Commander Glenn Patterson.
“They paid for themselves over,” declared Norm Walker, a member of the leadership team and former San Jacinto Ranger District and Idyllwild Fire chief.
Officials were concerned that the drifting embers could move the fire too quickly and an evacuation could jam the roads when emergency vehicles needed to be moving into town.
Idyllwild is not the team’s only threatened community, Pincha-Tulley reported. “The Fire is within two miles of Palm Springs, but we’re making a concentrated effort to keep it in this slope and so far so good.”
Pincha-Tulley described the 22,800-acre Mountain Fire as not uncommon in Southern California, but rare this time of year because of the dryness. “It’s so dry it’s acting like a September or October fire. It’s good there are no Santa Ana winds.”
12:04 P.M. THURSDAY UPDATE: Several Idyllwild businesses remain open during evacuation
Four center-of-town businesses were open Thursday following the previous evening’s evacuation.
Fifteen customers graced the Red Kettle restaurant at 9:15 this morning. Most appeared to be residents, but a few were fire-related personnel, including freelance fire photographer Jenny Kirchner.
Jenny has placed herself in the thick of the action and has provided some amazing photographs to the Town Crier, which have been picked up by national media. She couldn’t pay for her meal this morning because a local resident beat her to it.
Several firefighters took meals to go. Ashley Stewart said the Kettle had opened an hour early this morning at 6 a.m. and that it would stay open “as long as they need us.”
Larry Donahoo at Village Hardware said much the same thing. He said he had sold some batteries among other supplies and was planning to stay open on Friday, with the weekend to be played by ear.
At Village Market, Dan Aronson also said that they would remain open as needed. Firefighters were among his few customers this morning and they were getting special rates.
At Idyllwild Garage and Chevron station, Tamara Friemoth remained open to sell gasoline and “whatever we can do to help.”
John Friemoth said the garage was staying open for Auto Club calls and other services. He said they had done a few jump starts for evacuating residents, and that he intended to stay open “until the flames show at the ridge.”
The Idyllwild Town Crier and Visitors Center also is open to answer callers’ questions and update fire information at www.towncrier.com.
10:40 A.M. THURSDAY UPDATE: A complete map of the Mountain Fire as of Thursday morning, July 17:
10:13 A.M. THURSDAY UPDATE: Evacuation centers:
Beaumont High School, 39139 Cherry Valley Blvd, Beaumont
Hemet High School, 41701 E. Stetson Ave, Hemet
Hamilton High School, 57430 Mitchell Road, Anza
Large animals may be brought to the San Jacinto Animal Shelter, 581 S. Grand Ave, San Jacinto CA
7:45 A.M. THURSDAY UPDATE: Good morning America!
The sun is up and the aroma of smoke permeates Idyllwild, but no fire yet. Fire officials declared, “Today’s priority is to keep [the Mountain Fire] out of Idyllwild.”
At this morning's fire briefing, fire officials promised “to paint the Mountain red!” Air tankers, nearly a dozen, will be dropping thousands of gallons of fire retardant from Wellman and Strawberry cienaga areas through Saddle Junction and down Southridge today.
If that works, the Mountain Fire will have been repelled at the door steps to Idyllwild. Fire officials felt work last night finished strong. "A lot of lines were laid last night,” was the morning report. A night flying helicopter was used extensively to assist.
“The most active parts of the fire are near Red Tahquitz Peak above the community of Idyllwild and near the community of Trails End to the south. These two areas will be the focus of today’s firefighting activities as both air and ground crews work to slow the rate of spread of the fire,” said John Miller, Forest Service PIO.
As of this morning, the fire has consumed 22,800 acres since it started Monday afternoon. Containment has approached 15 percent.
Nearly 3,000 firefighters and support personnel are on the Hill trying to protect our homes and environment and the cost has exceeded $5.5 million thus far.
While Idyllwild, a town of about 3,800 people, has been emptied, the evacuated residents have been replaced by firefighters and hundreds of other public safety people.
For weeks, California and Riverside County fire officials have consistently warned that fires this early in the fire season were behaving as if it were late September or October. The lack of rainfall, not just this winter and spring, but the sparse moisture last year have created very volatile conditions. Consequently, fires are strong and much more unpredictable.
“If it were any other year, we probably wouldn’t have had to do this,” said Norm Walker, Idyllwild resident, former fire chief of the San Jacinto Ranger District and currently still an incident management team leader.
7:04 P.M. WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Those under mandatory evacuation:
Hemet High School, 41701 E. Stetson Ave, Hemet
Hamilton High School, 57430 Mitchell Road, Anza
Large and Small Animals can be taken to Lake Hemet Campground in Garner Valley
Small animals can be brought to the San Jacinto Animal Shelter, 581 S. Grand Ave, San Jacinto CA
6:41 P.M. WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The MANDATORY EVACUATION has been upgraded to all of Idyllwild and Fern Valley, not just east of Highway 243. That does NOT include Pine Cove, Mountain Center or areas between Pine Cove and Poppet Flats. Both Capt. Scot Collins, commander of the Hemet Sheriff's Station and Mountain Fire PIO Tom Efird confirmed this tonight.
5:15 P.M. WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The mandatory fire evacuation order is for the Idyllwild area east of Highway 243 including Fern Valley, Mt. San Jacinto State Park Wilderness, U.S. Forest Service Wilderness and Campgrounds, according to Chris Gaulding, public information officer for the Mountain Fire.
This is not a soft evacuation order now.
Not included in the evacuation order are Pine Cove, Mountain Center, Idyllwild west and Poppet Flats.
Highways 74 and 243 will be closed to non-residents.
4:45 P.M. WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Idyllwild and Fern Valley to be evacuated
The two local communities have been told to evacuate, according to Mountain Fire PIO Tom Efird. "It's a soft evacuation right now, people will able allowed to come and go, as long as they live here." (This was posted before the mandatory notice.)
The Town Crier has heard the Riverside County Sheriff's will begin implementing the evacuation this evening.
Evacuation center information will be posted on the Forest Service Inciweb site shortly, http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3516/
3:45 P.M. WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The Trails End community at the very top of Morris Ranch Road in Garner Valley is under an immediate evacuation notice.
Riverside County has a reverse 911 phone system for early notification of emergencies, such as wildfire evacuations. To sign up a phone number, visit https://ucs.tfcci.com/cgi-bin/public/generic/riverside_county_ca_signup.cgi
2:01 P.M. WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Despite the pink and black plume of smoke hovering in the skies east of Idyllwild, the town is under no imminent threat, said Mountain Fire officials. This northern flank of the Mountain Fire is up on the Desert Divide between Hurkey and Apache creeks.
No firefighters are working that area because of rough terrain but retardant is being dropped. It is a completely fuels-driven fire today. The westerly winds are not as strong today as they were Monday and Tuesday but the winds still are coming from the west.
There is no new estimate of acreage.
More updates to come soon.
1:26 P.M. WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The fire has flanked and moved north into the wilderness above Idyllwild and south into Palm Canyon. Officials say the fire still is not threatening Idyllwild, but large plums of black and orange smoke are visible from the town in the skies east of the village. The fire appears to be south of South Ridge.
6:45 A.M. WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Highway 243 is OPEN in both directions.
After flying and mapping the Mountain Fire overnight, the most recent estimate of its size is 14,200 acres. Containment remains at ten percent. The growth potential is still extreme.
The total number of personnel working on this Fire has exceeded 2,200. That is composed of nearly 100 fire engines, 15 helicopters, and 10 aircraft including the DC-10s.
7:32 P.M. TUESDAY UPDATE: Cal Fire's "Ready, Set, Go" plan: http://www.readyforwildfire.org/
6:58 P.M. TUESDAY UPDATE: The fire is now estimated to be at 9,000 acres with a perimeter of 120 miles. Firefighters number 1,736.
The Zen Buddhist center is OK. However, three mobile homes and three homes in Bonita Vista were destroyed, and one home was damaged; one commercial shed, a workshop, a garage and a cabin at Pine Springs Ranch were destroyed; an outbuilding (trailer) at Keenwild Guard Station was destroyed; and 10 other outbuildingz and four to six vehicles were either destroyed or damaged within the whole fire area.
The Ronald McDonald camp was evacuated today. Riverside County Sheriff's Department warned the camp yesterday about concerns that the fire might start flanking. It did and the fire is still expanding.
Jeanne Pincha-Tulley, incident commander, is concerned about weather conditions this coming weekend when rain may occur that could bring lightning which could affect the fire. "There's a short window to get a plan in place," she said. "We don't know what the weather will do. We want to get out there and get what we can done."
With temperatures still in the 70s, Dennis Burns, U.S. Forest Service, an incident team member in planning, said this "fire is being driven by the fuels. It's a flanking fire. The winds are pushing it." Tonight, when the winds die down, the fire will be driven by topography. So he advised team leaders to make sure when they go out to the fire before night falls to understand where the fire iss headed, and not expect fire behavior to diminish after dark.
So far, two strike teams in Palm Springs haven't been used there because the fire is still too high to pump water. Concern there is that the fire will spread into Palm Springs. No one can predict the fire's behavior tonight as to whether it will reach the desert but they want to be ready in case it does.
5:49 P.M. TUESDAY UPDATE: Riverside County has a reverse 911 phone system for early notification of emergencies, such as wildfire evacuations. To sign up a phone number, visit https://ucs.tfcci.com/cgi-bin/public/generic/riverside_county_ca_signup.cgi
Also, the county is warning people in the San Jacinto Mountains that smoke and ash from the fire their health. Fire officials have suggested the fire could burn for several days. Health officials are concerned that prolonged exposure to smoke and ash could harm residents in the mountain communities, including Idyllwild, Pine Cove, Mountain Center and Pinyon Pines, and other locations where the smoke lingers.
“Flames are a danger but with a fire this size, residents also need to protect against smoke and ash,” said Susan Harrington, director of the County of Riverside Department of Public Health. “Taking small steps can help prevent smoke from affecting residents’ lives. It is important to recognize the health hazard.”
Wildfire smoke – a mixture of small particles, gases and water vapor – has blanketed portions of the county and could cause problems that include burning eyes, runny nose, shortness of breath, scratchy throat, headaches and chest pains. Smoke also can worsen conditions related to asthma, and chronic heart and lung disease.
The American Lung Association has some general recommendations for those in areas where smoke is present. People affected by the smoke should remain indoors and avoid inhaling smoke and ash. Ordinary dust masks designed to filter out large particles will not help because they still allow the more dangerous small particles to pass through.
If you live close to or in the surrounding area, you should refrain from exercising outdoors, especially if you smell smoke or experience eye or throat irritation.
Extra precautions should be taken for children, who are more susceptible to smoke because their respiratory systems are still developing and they breathe in more air (and consequently more pollution) per pound of body mass than adults.
When driving your car through smoky areas, keep your windows and vents closed. Air conditioning should only be operated in the "recirculate" setting.
4:46 P.M. TUESDAY UPDATE: The Mountain Fire is now threatening the desert community of Andreas Country Club in Andreas Canyon. Some of the 24 homes in the club date back to the 1920s, and residents are under mandatory evacuation orders.
1:57 P.M. TUESDAY UPDATE: Although Highway 74 is open, Caltrans is discouraging its use while fire equipment is relocated from Mountain Center to the Lake Hemet incident command center. Caltrans is encouraging only local residents to use Highway 74 at this time.
11:15 A.M. TUESDAY UPDATE: Mountain Fire has consumed 8,000 acres now. Still spreading in difficult terrain populated with timber and chaparral. Fire is still moving east and northeast, but not towards Idyllwild, according to Bob Poole, PIO. Currently more than 650 firefighters are battling the blaze.
Structures have been destroyed in Apple Canyon. According to Poole, a damage assessment team is investigating the area to determine "what and how many." He stressed that they know many structures survived.
9:45 A.M. TUESDAY UPDATE: Besides roads, trails have been closed also. Below is the Forest Service notice:
The Pacific Crest Trail is closed from Highway 74 north to Saddle Junction. All of the trails connecting to the Pacific Crest Trail are closed as well, including South Ridge Trail, Caramba Trail, Spitler Peak Trail, Fobes Trail and Cedar Springs.
Individuals or groups with overnight or advance day-use permits into the San Jacinto Wilderness are advised to call the San Jacinto Ranger Station at (909) 382-2921.
Highway 74 is open in both directions.
9:31 A.M. TUESDAY UPDATE: People have been asking about evacuation procedures. The procedure on the mountain was developed through the Mountain Area Safety Task Force (MAST), a cooperative agency organization, according to John Miller, Mountain Fire PIO. The Riverside County Sheriff's Office has a preplan for evacuation on the Hill that is set up in zones, a couple dozen. "We have agreed with the sheriff to give them enough notice to gt enough deputies up here to go door-to-door," said Miller. Evacuation would occur first at a zone most threatened. At this time, however, the fire is not threat to Idyllwild or Pine Cove.
9:21 A.M. TUESDAY UPDATE: Highway 243 between Marion View Drive and Banning is now open to all traffic, not just residential. It is closed between Mountain Center and Marion View Drive.
7:30 A.M. TUESDAY UPDATE: Fire officials estimate the Mountain Fire is about 10 percent contained and has reached 4,700 acres. More than 600 personnel are on the ground. A Type 1 Incident Management Team will be arriving today to take command of the Fire.
The Fire is still considered very dangerous. The following road closures and evacuations and centers are still in place:
Closures and Evacuations:
Highway 243 is closed between Saunders Meadow Road and the junction of Highway 74. There are mandatory Evacuations for the Living Free Animal Sanctuary, The Fleming Ranch, Bonita Vista Community (20 homes), and the Zen Mountain Center.
Hemet High School, 41701 E. Stetson Ave, Hemet
Hamilton High School, 57430 Mitchell Road, Anza -
Large and Small Animals can be taken to Lake Hemet Campground in Garner Valley
Small animals can be brought to the San Jacinto Animal Shelter, 581 S. Grand Ave, San Jacinto CA
7:05 A.M. TUESDAY UPDATE: The Mountain Fire was estimated to be 4,700 acres this morning. Several fire lines were established during the evening. The control objectives for Tuesday, July 16, include keeping the fire south of Southridge, north of Highway 74 and Garner Valley, east of McCall Road and Hwy. 243 and west of Palm Canyon. The edge of the fire appears to have already reached the Mountain divide overlooking the desert.
A U.S. Forest Service night flying was used last night as well as other air resources.
The fire is is steep, rugged terrain and portions have moved into wilderness areas. Firefighters will be vigilantly watching the wind speed and direction.
9:13 P.M. MONDAY UPDATE: John Miller, public information officer for the Mountain Fire, said the fire is still actively burning on the eastern end of Apple Canyon but Idyllwild is under no threat at this time. Asked what it would take for the fire to threaten the town, he said, "An abrupt and immediate wind shift."
7:53 P.M. MONDAY UPDATE: The Mountain Fire is now more than 1,000 acres and one or more structures have burned, according to John Miller, public information officer for the fire. However, no one has been able to confirm the type of structures.
About 320 firefighters are working the fire and more are expected to arrive tomorrow. A Type 1 incident team also is expected to arrive tomorrow.
"It's a really serious fire," said Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins. He said the trajectory of the fire is what's protecting Idyllwild. The fire is wind, fuel and topography driven. Therefore, Idyllwild should be in ready, set, go mode. If the wind shifts, Idyllwild could be threatened so be prepared for evacuation.
News Editor J.P. Crumrine said the Mountain Center area is a war zone and the area looks devastated. "You will be shocked," he said.
The fire started on private property adjacent to the forest but no cause has been determined.
6:53 P.M. MONDAY UPDATE: The fire is at least 1,000 acres, according to John Miller, Mountain Fire public information officer. Structures may have been destroyed in the Bonita Vista area.
4:55 P.M. MONDAY UPDATE: The fire is now estimated at 235 acres with 5 percent containment. There are 323 firefighters on the scene and 38 engines on the ground with 4 helicopters and 6 air tankers. An evacuation center is set up at Hemet High School, 41701 E. Stetson Ave. in Hemet.
The fire has burned itself out along Highway 243 in Mountain Center, according to the U.S. Forest Service. However, the highway will remain closed to allow for fire equipment traffic.
Video courtesy Jenny Kirchner
4:25 P.M. MONDAY UPDATE: The fire is now estimated at 150 acres, according to CAL FIRE.
Videos courtesy of Mike Freitas
4:20 P.M. MONDAY UPDATE: Mandatory evacuations are taking place at Living Free Animal Sanctuary and approximately 20 homes in the Bonita Vista, Apple Canyon and Fleming Ranch communities.
3:45 P.M. UPDATE: Idyllwild Fire Capt. Jim Reyes said the summer camps in the area have been alerted of the fire and parents have been calling concerned. Reyes believes the fire is "starting to lay down."
So many people were parked along Saunders Meadow Road, May Valley Road and Highway 243 watching the fire that the U.S. Forest Service evacuated them out of the area.
The fire is estimated at 50 acres with no containment.
3:33 P.M. MONDAY UPDATE: The fire is estimated at 50 acres. Eastbound Highway 74 is closed at Cranston Guard Station, westbound lanes are open.
3:17 P.M. MONDAY UPDATE: Highway 243 on the Banning side will soon be closed to all traffic except residents.
3:10 P.M. MONDAY UPDATE: Highway 74 is closed East of the USFS Cranston Guard Station. Highway 243 is closed at Saunders Meadow.
2:26 P.M. MONDAY UPDATE: The fire is estimated at 30 acres.
CAL FIRE/Riverside County Firefighters along with the US Forest Service are on scene of wildland fire in Mountain Center. First arriving units reported approximately five acres burning in heavy fuels at a moderate rate. Southbound Highway 243 is closed at Mountain Center and above Keenwild.
Six air tankers and four helicopters are working to extinguish the fire with 302 firefighters and 33 engine companies.
There are no mandatory evacuations at this time.
No injuries or structural damage has been reported.
2:45 P.M. MONDAY UPDATE: The California Highway Patrol has closed Highway 243 between Mountain Center and Saunders Meadow Road and Highway 74 from Mountain Center to the U.S. Forest Service Cranston Guard Station due to a rapidly growing brush fire at highways 74 and 243, reported by the U.S. Forest Service at 1:45 p.m.
Air tankers and helicopters, as well as ground crews, are working the fire.
Flames are high. The fire started on the west side of Highway 243 but has jumped the highway and is heading south/southeast toward Living Free Animal Sancturary.
The Town Crier will update this report as information becomes available.