The commander overseeing the fight against the Fairview fire southeast of Hemet said Wednesday morning, Sept. 7, that he hopes to quickly double the number of people, aircraft and fire engines attacking the deadly blaze that overnight surged past 5,000 acres burned.
Josh Janssen, division chief of the Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department, said he assessed the fire’s growth Tuesday afternoon and saw the flames, fueled by dry brush and extreme heat, jumping across the lines dug by hands and bulldozers.
“It was clear that the fire was outpacing our ground and air resources,” Janssen said at a 6 a.m. briefing at the Diamond Valley Aquatic Center.
Containment, the percent of the fire’s boundary where officials believe the flames will no longer go beyond, stayed at 5% overnight. There were a reported 4,500 acres burned as of Tuesday evening.
The fire, which doubled in size Tuesday but claimed no further lives or homes, continues to burn on all sides.
As of 7 a.m. Wednesday, there were 265 firefighters and 38 engine companies assigned to the fire.
The U.S. Forest Service is now partnering with Cal Fire as the flames march toward federal lands.
Some 3,700 homes have been evacuated, and sheriff’s deputies are still going door to door as new areas are threatened.
“We ask for your cooperation,” said Sgt. Brandi Swan, a Sheriff”s Department spokeswoman. “We beg for your cooperation.”
Cal Fire spokesman Capt. Richard Cordova noted the speed with which the flames that overtook three family members attempting to flee an Avery Canyon home on Monday and urged residents to leave now.
“If you think you have time to escape, you don’t,” Cordova said.
Officials urged residents to prepare an evacuation plan that includes a “go bag” with important documents, medicine and other needs.
The evacuation zone spreads south from Highway 74, west of Mountain Center, north of Cactus Valley and toward Anza, north of Highway 371 to the forest boundary.
Swan said the two people who perished in a car and a woman who was found burned outside the car on Avery Canyon Road on Monday were related. The woman was expected to survive, Swan said. The car was towed to be examined for evidence.
Investigators continue probing the cause of the fire, which was first reported around 2 p.m. Monday at Fairview Avenue and Bautista Road. Janssen would not address the filing by Southern California Edison about unexplained “circuit activity” near the ignition site around the time of the fire report. A lawyer who has sued the utility said the filing is “very strong evidence” that a power line malfunction started the fire.
The American Red Cross is operating an evacuation center at Tahquitz High School, 4425 Titan Trail in Hemet. Hemet Unified schools remained closed Wednesday.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
Source: Orange County Register