Storm cells triggered by Tropical Storm Kay off SoCal coast help douse Fairview Fire near Hemet

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Saturday, September 10, 2022
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Storm cells triggered by the remnants of Tropical Storm Kay helped fire crews in broadening containment lines around the deadly Fairview Fire near Hemet.

HEMET, Calif. (KABC) -- Rain generated by the remnants of Tropical Storm Kay helped fire crews slow the spread of the deadly Fairview Fire burning southeast of Hemet Friday, allowing authorities to reduce some evacuation orders from mandatory to voluntary and ground crews to reach 40% containment of the fire.

The National Weather Service had issued a flood watch and a high wind warning for the area, with authorities saying as much as 7 inches of rain could fall in the area before the storms dissipate, raising the likelihood of flash floods, mud and debris flows. The inclement weather was due to Tropical Storm Kay, which had been a hurricane before hitting the Baja peninsula in Mexico.

The Weather Service predicted gusts of 55 mph in the valleys and 75 mph in the mountains and deserts.

Sandbags are available at fire stations and hardware stores in Riverside County.

Cal Fire officials have said they hope to have the fire contained by early next week, an objective that appeared more feasible with the arrival of rain.

By 8 p.m. Friday, officials said the fire had grown to 28,307 acres, with containment increasing from the 5% that had not changed since Monday.

On Friday evening, the following areas were reduced to evacuation warnings:

  • South of Diamond Valley Lake
  • East of Washington Street
  • North of Borel Road
  • East of Rancho California Road
  • East of Anza Road
  • North of Temecula Pkwy (Hwy 79)
  • Northwest of Hwy 371
  • West of Highway 74
  • South of USFS Boundary
  • The community of Ramona Village and Olivet University

At 1 p.m. Thursday, Cal Fire announced that the area east of De Portola Road, west of Sage Road and north of East Benton Road was under a mandatory evacuation.

Mandatory evacuations remained in place for residents south of Cactus Valley Road, north of Minto Way, north of Red Mountain Road, west of the U.S. Forest Service boundary and east of Sage, west of Wilson Way, south of Highway 74, east of Fairview Avenue, north of Stetson Avenue, south of Minto, south of Red Mountain, west and north of Stanley Road and east of Sage.

Other evacuation warnings were active for those living west of Reed Valley Road and west of the USFS boundary, south of Stanley and north of Wilson Valley Road.

Highway 74 in the San Bernardino National Forest was fully closed between Mountain Center and Borco Street, which is in Valle Vista.

The Fairview Fire was reported shortly after 2 p.m. Monday on Fairview Avenue and Bautista Road.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Josh Janssen said firefighters were strategically dispersed Wednesday, following a day that saw the flames "outpace our efforts." Cal Fire established unified command with the USFS Wednesday.

The Riverside County Emergency Management Department declared a local emergency Wednesday due to the fire, enabling the county to apply for federal and state relief. The Board of Supervisors is slated to formally approve the proclamation during its meeting Tuesday. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency covering the fire zone earlier this week.

Officials said the fire resulted in two civilian fatalities and one civilian burn injury. Sheriff's officials confirmed Wednesday the two deceased victims were found inside a vehicle in the 42400 block of Avery Canyon Road in East Hemet Monday, apparently overcome by the flames while trying to leave.

At least seven buildings have been destroyed and several more were damaged. Friends said the Comptons' home was among the structures destroyed.

Evacuation centers were set up at Tahquitz High School in Hemet, Temecula Valley High School and the Temecula Community Center.

The Department of Animal Services said the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus was accepting large and small domestic creatures for safekeeping. Livestock were being cared for at the Perris Fairgrounds.

All fees for retaining pets will be waived under the county emergency order, agency spokesman John Welsh said.

When the fire erupted earlier this week, Bob Brown with the California Ranch Company in Temecula opened his 70-acre equestrian center, offering a sanctuary for animals in evacuated areas.

"We did the best we could to put them all in last count," he said. "We were over 700 plus horses and everything from livestock all the way down to cats and dogs."

Jacklyn Davis with Saddle Up Ranch heeded warnings early and is encouraging other large animal owners to do the same.

"They are doing that to avoid coming in and rescue you and your animals," she said. "You have no idea how many animals have been turned loose, people have hit them and killed them."

The Los Angeles Equestrian Center is also playing host. Trailers have since been set up to allow evacuees to stay with their animals.

Rosie Cowley told Eyewitness News she has helped evacuate 26 horses that she and volunteers are now caring for at the ranch.

"During that time, we got the mandatory evacuation order while we were already loading up so then we moved everybody out," said Cowley.

Carret Rescue Rangers said they're offering help for residents with large animals. Crews will go into evacuation zones with their trailers and help get the animals out. For more information, you can call 760-233-2135.

The cause of the fire was under investigation. In a document filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, Southern California Edison reported "circuit activity" in the area close to the time the fire erupted.

City News Service contributed to this report.