Highland Fire burns more than 1,219 acres in Riverside County, prompting evacuations

City News Service
Tuesday, October 31, 2023
Fire burns 1,219 acres in Riverside County, prompting evacuations
A brush fire that erupted in Riverside County scorched more than 1,219 acres.

AGUANGA, Calif. (CNS) -- A brush fire that erupted Monday in Riverside County scorched more than 1,219 acres, crossed a highway and damaged at least one property, prompting evacuation orders and warnings.

The Highland Fire was listed at 0% containment as of 7 p.m. Monday.

The blaze was first reported about 12:40 p.m. in the area of Highlands and Aguanga Ranchos roads, near the junction for Highways 79 and 371, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

The agency said multiple engine and hand crews from the county, Corona Fire Department, Hemet Fire Department, Murrieta Fire & Rescue, Palm Springs Fire Department, U.S. Forest Service and other agencies were sent to the location and encountered flames moving at a moderate rate to the west.

Santa Ana winds became a significant factor as the afternoon progressed, though as of 5 p.m., they were abating, according to reports from the scene.

Shortly after 3 p.m., the flames crossed Highway 371, moving west-southwest, heading toward residences in the 45100 and 45800 blocks of Highway 371, according to officials.

A house in the 45800 block of Jojoba Road was reportedly damaged by the fire. The occupants escaped uninjured, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Evacuation orders were posted for the area encompassing Boulder Vista Street to the west, Becker Lane to the east, Cottonwood Creek to the north, Golden Eagle Drive to the south, Highway 371 to the south, Soreson to the west, and County Line Road to the north.

An evacuation warning was issued for the area encompassing Shirley Way to the west, the Vail Lake Resort to the east, David Street to the north, Pueblo Road to the south, Cahuilla Tribal Reservation Boundary to the west, County Line Road to the north, Cleveland National Forest to the north, Watts Road to the south, Esplendida Way, Avenida Bravura, Pauba Road to the east, De Portola Road, and Round Top Canyon Road to the west.

CHP officers shut down Highway 79 at County Line Road for public safety. The 79/371 junction was also closed, and motorists were being turned around.

A care and reception center was established for evacuees at Great Oak High School, 32555 Deer Hollow Way in Temecula. Residents with large and small pets were invited to drop them at the San Jacino Valley Animal Campus for safekeeping, 581 S. Grand Ave.

Six Cal Fire air tankers and four water-dropping helicopters initiated runs on the brusher prior to ground crews' arrival, closing off its eastern flank. However, winds fanned the flames as crews worked to encircle the wildfire.

The blaze started near a residence, but the exact cause was under investigation.