Falls Fire in Morrell Canyon prompts evacuations


The "Falls Fire" had burned approximately 1,500 acres by 11 p.m. Monday, about 5 miles west of Lake Elsinore off the Ortega (74) Highway.

Mandatory evacuation orders remained in place for homes in the Decker Canyon area and Rancho Capistrano. Evacuation orders were lifted for Lakeland Village by 9:45 p.m.

An evacuation center was opened at Lakeside High School in Lake Elsinore.

One building was reportedly damaged in Morrell Canyon, where the fire originated. Officials said two firefighters sustained minor heat-related injuries.

So-called "sundowner" winds were complicating the firefighting effort. Also called the "Lake Elsinore effect," winds were blowing flames straight down hills toward homes.

Officials said crews are worried about spot fires.

"There's still a ton of fire out there, hidden fire, in the underbrush, along the edges of the fire. There's no containment line. So all it would take would be a wind event to come in and this fire could be off and running again," said Marc Peebles with the Southern California Incident Management Team.

On scene were 55 fire engines, 16 hand crews, five fixed-wing aircraft, five helicopters, two bulldozers, and a DC-10 air-tanker was ordered. The DC-10 arrived on scene at 5:30 p.m.

Ortega Highway was closed to non-residents of the area. Morrell Canyon Road was also closed to non-residents. Other closures include: Grand Avenue in Lake Elsinore; Antonio Parkway in Orange County; and a portion of South Main Divide Road.

El Cariso Campground, El Cariso South Picnic Area, the California Wildland Firefighters Memorial Highway and the Wildomar Off-Highway Vehicle Area were also closed as a result of the brush fire.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Copyright © 2023 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved.