Silver Fire rages on, homes still threatened


The fire has scorched 14,000 acres and is 20 percent contained. New evacuation orders were issued Thursday as the fire moved closer to the community of Snow Creek.

"If we ask you to leave, please leave," said John Miller with the U.S. Forest Service.

Earlier in the day, the fire approached the windmills off the 10 Freeway near Palm Springs. The typically strong winds in the area quickly moved the flames and the smoke.

To the west, skies are blue, but to the east, they are very black. The air quality is very bad and the wind is very strong, pushing the fire towards people. A dozen homes in the Cabazon area came under threat as a fast moving wall of flames came dangerously close.

"It lit up pretty good. Luckily, the fire department came in and saved the day," said Andy Britain of Cabazon.

Cal Fire said portions of Cabazon were ordered to evacuate, including Peach Street, Plum Street, Eucalyptus Street, Riza Avenue, Ida Avenue and Helen Avenue east to Elm Street.

The communities of Poppet Flats, Twin Pines, Silent Valley, Vista Grande and Mt. Edna were evacuated Wednesday.

Black Mountain was evacuated and closed as a precaution. Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Campgrounds on Black Mountain Road have also been closed until Aug. 15.

The fire has forced 1,500 people from their homes. Officials said 26 homes and one commercial building were destroyed. Two structures were damaged.

Steve Cooke was planning to get married on Saturday, but the fire has destroyed his home. Cooke said after he was evacuated, he watched the news and saw his home go up in flames. He said he lost everything, including the tuxedo he was going to wear for his wedding.

"The home didn't bother me that much. It's a material thing. You can always replace those. The work we put in getting ready for the wedding, that bothers me," said Cooke. "We've got family out here from back east, so just not knowing how we're going to get that all rearranged by Saturday."

FEMA has authorized funds to assist the state in battling the Silver Fire. Up to 75 percent of eligible firefighting costs will be reimbursed.

Dry brush, low humidity and 10- to 15 mile-per-hour winds helped fan the flames, scorching thousands of acres of wilderness with firefighters racing to keep up. More than 1,400 firefighters are battling the wildfire.

At least five firefighters have suffered minor injuries. Officials said it was a combination of smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion. One civilian was also injured. The civilian, who was burned from head to toe, was airlifted to a burn center.

The fire erupted around 2 p.m. Wednesday and spread quickly. At one point, the fire split in two and began burning on both sides of Highway 243. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Evacuation centers for residents and animals have been set up at:

- Hemet High School, 41701 E. Stetson Ave. in Hemet.

- Beaumont High School, 39139 Cherry Valley Blvd. in Beaumont.

- San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus, 581 S. Grand Ave. in San Jacinto.

Shadow Hills RV Resort says evacuees with RVs can stay at the resort for free until the fire is contained. The resort is located at 40-655 Jefferson St. in Indio.

Highway 243 remains closed between Banning and Azalea Trail in Poppet Flats.

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