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Crews make progress on I.E. brush fires

July 16, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Crews are making progress on wildfires burning in Riverside County after being sparked by lightning from unusually strong summer storms.A smoky haze hung over Hemet on Friday morning as fire crews attacked the remaining flames of the Cactus Fire with water drops. It is one of nearly two dozen fires sparked by lightning during Thursday afternoon's ferocious thunderstorm.

"It was creepy. You felt like you were Dorothy, you know, not Kansas. The lightning came, and then the wind came, and it was a really funny feeling that it gave you," said Charm Card of Hemet.

Cooler temperatures and higher humidity levels helped firefighters overnight.

The Cactus Fire was the first to break out Thursday afternoon in the area of Red Mountain Road and Oak Creek. Authorities said Friday that the Cactus Fire was 30 percent contained and had burned 490 acres.

For a time, it threatened a cluster of homes in Diamond Valley near Hemet. Residents were initially told to evacuated, but the call for evacuations was soon lifted as firefighters tackled the flames.

The Saddle Fire near Hemet is the smallest of the three fires and was fully contained on Friday. It burned 70 acres. Authorities said the fire burned in heavy brush near Oak Glen Road and Red Mountain Road after it was sparked at 3:47 p.m. Thursday.

The Skinner Fire is burning near Temecula and is the largest of the blazes. The Skinner Fire is 60 percent contained and has burned 970 acres. The fire was reported at 3:42 p.m. Thursday near Crown Valley Road and De Portola Road, just northeast of Lake Skinner County Park.

Officials hope to get the two remaining fires at least 50 percent contained on Friday.

The weather that is blamed for the fires was a wild combination of lightning strikes, thunder, rain, hail and very strong winds. Riverside County residents said they had never seen anything quite like it.

Now, residents are bracing for another day of triple-digit heat, while officials brace for the chance of more wild weather.

"We're preparing. We have a lot of resources on standby here at area command post," said Capt. Fernando Herrera. "Obviously we have all our stations and personnel on standby and covered in case we go for round two."