'Summit Incident' brush fire in Banning prompts evacuations


A brush fire was reported at 12:38 p.m. near North San Gorgonio Avenue and Summit Drive, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

By 9 p.m., the Riverside County Fire Department said the fire was mapped at 2,956 acres. The fire was 35 percent contained. There was no estimation on when it would be fully contained.

Residents on Indian School Lane and the north end of 8th Street were evacuated. The Highland Springs Mobile Home Park was also evacuated. The Highland Springs park evacuation order was lifted at 8 p.m.

An evacuation center was set up at the Banning Community Center at 789 N. San Gorgonio Road. The center was scheduled to remain open overnight.

Large animals like horses can be taken to Noble Community Park in Beaumont. Dogs and cats and other smaller animals may be brought to the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus.

There were road closures in place for all of Wilson Street between San Gorgonio and Highland Springs Avenue, according to the fire department. By 8 p.m. Mias Canyon Road was re-opened. Bluff Road remained closed. Motorists were advised to drive with caution due to fire equipment working in the area and advised to obey road closure signs and barricades.

Approximately 425 firefighters were on scene, as well as air tankers and helicopters. High winds made firefighting conditions difficult Wednesday afternoon.

"If the winds die down, firefighters will be able to get busy on the ground and hopefully we can hook this fire, but if we get strong, erratic winds throughout the evening, that could create quite a challenge," said John Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.

One firefighter was injured, according to the fire department.

One house and some cars were burned.

Joe Kiener was able to dodge the fire, but his house was the only structure lost to the flames.

"I keep thinking I lost this, I lost that. Well, I'm alive," Kiener said.

Joe Zerr and Jerry Prather grabbed a garden hose and started spraying trees in preparation of the nearby fire.

By a matter of a few feet, the two helped save every home on their block, including Kerrill Van de Poppe's.

"I told him I wanted to hug you, I was hugging and kissing everybody, I was hugging and kissing firemen and complete strangers," Van de Poppe said.

On her way back home, Van de Poppe saw other residents who weren't so fortunate.

You look at the rest of the devastation out there, it makes me want to cry," she said.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Banning is located in Riverside County about 33 miles east of the city of Riverside.

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