Though it did not come close to Hill communities, a fire reported at 2:17 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 25, showed potential to run up the mountain and did cause the California Highway Patrol to close Highway 243 from Twin Pines Road to the KOA Campground in Banning.
Banning High School and the KOA Campground were evacuated as Riverside County Fire Department reported the Westward Fire (named for Westward Avenue near where it began) at 200 acres and 10% contained early that evening.
The forward rate of spread also had stopped and the fire was downgraded to 160 acres with 60% contained before 9 p.m.
“Resources will remain on scene improving control lines,” said RC Fire. Evacuation orders had been lifted as of Thursday.
As of 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 28, the fire “is 100% contained. Firefighters and equipment will remain on scene completing fire suppression repair. Motorists should use caution driving in the area,” according to RC Fire.
Cal Fire Law Enforcement is seeking the public’s help for any suspicious or illegal activities surrounding the Rock Fire that occurred in Anza last week and destroyed four homes, and the Westward Fire. “These fires were ignited as a result of the actions or inactions of human behavior,” according to Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire.
“The Rock Fire, which occurred in the town of Anza, burned 295 acres and destroyed or damaged six homes. During suppression efforts, marijuana cultivation was discovered on a property in the 57000 block of Gulley View Drive. The Riverside County Sheriff’s [Department is] handling the cultivation of marijuana, but Cal Fire Law Enforcement wants to speak with the property owner(s) and anyone [who] may have been on the property at the time the fire started.
“The Westward Fire originated in the City of Banning and quickly spread to the foothills along Highway 243.” The fire burned about 100 acres in Banning and 60 acres in the State Responsibility Area.
“An individual(s) set fire to a stolen vehicle which caused the surrounding dry grasses to ignite. Cal Fire Law Enforcement wants to speak to anyone who may have seen individuals entering or fleeing the area.
“Cal Fire Law Enforcement have zero tolerance for any acts of arson. A person can be arrested for an intentional or unintentional act that causes a fire, regardless if that act was intended to set a fire. If convicted of arson, you can be sentenced to state prison anywhere between 16 months and nine years.
“Anyone with information associated with either fire is encouraged to call the Arson Hotline at 800-633-2836. You have the option to remain anonymous.”
At about 2:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 30, U.S. Forest Service firefighters were dispatched to two fires below Black Mountain. Keenwild Helitak 535 also responded to the fires where lightning was determined to be the cause.
The helicopter dipped into Lake Fulmor to assist the ground crews.
San Bernardino National Forest Public Information Officer Zachary Behrens reported Tuesday morning, “They are both 100% contained. We’ll continue to do reconnaissance flights this week to check for any other lightning-caused fires.”