Mountain Fire near Idyllwild prompts new evacuations


The fire, which started Monday in Mountain Center, has burned 19,400 acres and was 15 percent contained as of 11 p.m. Wednesday.

More than 4,100 homes are threatened by the fire. An evacuation notice was announced for Fern Valley, Idyllwild and adjacent communities east of Highway 243, according to San Bernardino National Forest officials. Pine Cove, Mountain Center, Idyllwild west of 243 and Poppet Flats were not included.

Caltrans closed Highway 243 from Highway 74 to Interstate 10 in Banning, and Highway 74 has been closed from Cranston Station in Hemet to Highway 371 due to the fire.

An evacuation notice was ordered for the Trails End Community at the very top of Morris Ranch Road Wednesday afternoon.

Mandatory evacuation orders are still in effect for the Andreas Canyon Club, south of Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, and for Bonita Vista, Pine Springs, and the Zen Mountain Center off of Apple Canyon Road.

Camp Ronald McDonald and Camp Joe Sherman have been voluntarily evacuated due to health concerns related to air quality.

Evacuation centers for residents and animals have been set up:

-Hemet High School, located at 41701 East Stetson Avenue in Hemet

-Hamilton high School, located at 57430 Mitchell Road in Anza

-Beaumont High School, located at 39139 Cherry Valley Boulevard in Beaumont

-San Jacinto Animal Shelter, located at 581 South Grand Avenue in San Jacinto

-Beaumont Civic Center (small animals), located at 550 E. 6th Street in Beaumont

The Pacific Crest Trail is closed from Highway 74 north to Saddle Junction. All of the trails connection to the Pacific Crest Trail are closed as well, including South Ridge Trail, Carumba Trail, Spitler Peak Trail, Fobes Trail and Cedar Springs. Hurkey Creek County Camground, and all of the hiking and mountain biking trails out of Hurkey creek and May Valley are closed.

Fire crews faced high winds, dry fuels and steep inaccessible terrain, officials said. Flames moved east over the crest of the mountains and is slowly heading down the mountain south of Palm Springs.

The fire began Monday at 1:43 p.m. near the 243 and 74 highways. At least seven homes have been destroyed. Fire officials said three mobile homes and three other residences were destroyed in Bonita Vista. In Pine Springs, one commercial building, a workshop, garage and cabin were destroyed. Eleven outbuildings and several vehicles also were destroyed.

The 20 homes that make up the Bonita Vista community and the four homes in Fleming Ranch have been evacuated. All 200 animals from the Living Free Sanctuary have also been evacuated and are safe. Since flames are moving away from homes, the animals will be returning to the sanctuary.

There is no word yet on when residents can return to their homes. They are encouraged to check in with the Red Cross in Anza at Hamilton High School so the Red Cross can help them with any needs.

The cause of the wildfire has not been determined. Nearly 3,000 fire personnel were battling the wildfire. As evening fell, night flying helicopters took over water-dropping operations. The cost of the firefighting efforts is estimated at $4 million.

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