Silver Fire: Some evacuations lifted as crews make progress


Officials said evacuations orders were lifted for communities of Snow Creek, Cabazon, Mt. Edna and Poppet Flats as of 6 p.m. Friday because the fire threat to those areas has diminished. Residents must check in with the distribution center at Hemet High School and provide proper identification to get an access pass.

Vista Grande, Twin Pines and the Silent Valley RV Park remain closed due to safety concerns and the ongoing firefighting operations.

As of 7 a.m. Saturday, the blaze has scorched 19,000 acres and is 47 percent contained.

On Friday morning, crews had to deal with 40-mph winds as well as rugged terrain. The main goal was to save the thousands of structures that were in the fire's path.

The blaze, which erupted Wednesday afternoon, forced 1,500 people from their homes. In the Twin pines neighborhood outside Banning, residents returned Friday to assess the damage.

Kimberly Miller of Twin Pines watched her garage go up in flames on the news. Despite losing everything in the garage, she says she feels blessed because her house is still standing. A group of photojournalists put down their cameras, picked up a garden hose and went to work, saving Miller's house.

"We're blessed. We're really really blessed. Our neighbors didn't fare as well," Miller said.

Right across the street, her neighbors lost everything. Officials said 26 homes and one commercial building have been destroyed. Two structures have been damaged.

Law enforcement officers went door-to-door in the affected areas to make sure everyone knew about the mandatory evacuations. Once they were done, they tied pieces of yellow emergency tape on the mail boxes belonging to homes they checked. Still, many residents opted to stay in their houses.

Keith Jackson was one of those residents. Around midday Friday, he was clearing brush around his home as the Silver Fire burned right above his house.

"When it comes into your backyard, and this is all you really have, you kind of want to see it through and make sure you don't lose anything. And that's why we stuck it out," Jackson said.

Friday morning, crews had eight water-dropping helicopters to help with the firefight and more than 1,400 firefighters were on scene as well.

Eight firefighters have suffered injuries due to the fire. One homeonwer was also injured. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Evacuation orders are in effect for Marion Mountain Campground, Fern Basin Campground, Dark Canyon Campground as well as the Marion Mountain and Seven Pines hiking trails.

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.

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. Snow Creek road is still closed at Highway 111.

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