HEMET, Calif. (KABC) -- Rain generated by remnants of Tropical Storm Kay helped fire crews slow the spread of the deadly Fairview Fire southeast of Hemet overnight, with ground crews reaching 40% containment and authorities reducing some evacuation orders to voluntary warnings.
Saturday afternoon, officials said the fire had burned 28,307 acres, with containment rising to 40% from the 5% figure, which had not changed since Monday.
Fire officials warned, however, that the "much-need precipitation," combined with high winds and heat can still lead to unpredictable fire behavior, so residents being allowed to return to their homes were "highly encouraged to remain alert during this dynamic incident."
As of 4 p.m. Saturday, the area of west of the U.S. Forest Service boundary, north of Wilson Valley Road and Reed Valley Road, east of Sage Road, and south of Stanley Road no longer required mandatory evacuations, as they became voluntary.
The same held true for the area of west of Sage Road, north of East Benton Road, east of De Portola Road, south of Cactus Valley Road, and
Evacuation warnings were lifted for the area south of Diamond Valley Lake, east of Washington Street, north of Borel Road, east of Rancho California Road, east of Anza Road, north of state Route 79, northwest of Highway 371 and west of state Route 74, south of the U.S. Forest Service Boundary to include the Ramona Indian Reservation and Olivet University, the Riverside County Fire Department announced Saturday.
Earlier Saturday afternoon, the area of east of State Street, south of Stetson Avenue, west of Fairview Avenue and north of Cactus Valley Road was reduced to an evacuation warning, the Riverside County Fire Department announced. Gibble Road, Polly Butte Road, Avery Canyon Road and Arvidson Road were reduced to an evacuation warning at the same time.
The onset of stormy weather prompted incident commanders to pull Cal Fire aircraft out of the firefighting operation late Friday morning. The operation lasted for about an hour and a half before Friday's high winds shut it down.
Firefighters were concerned by scattered showers and possible thunderstorms again Saturday. Winds were expected to be slower at 20 to 30 mph, incident meteorologist Matt Mehle said. Friday's wind gusts were at 68 mph in the area of Idyllwild while lower elevation areas like Hemet stayed at 30 to 40 mph.
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 before the storms dissipate, raising the likelihood of flash floods, mud and debris flows. The flood watch warning is effective through midnight Saturday.
The inclement weather was due to Tropical Storm Kay, off the southwestern coast of the United States, which had been a hurricane before hitting the Baja peninsula in Mexico.
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 the rain.
The fire was initially reported shortly after 2 p.m. Monday on Fairview Avenue and Bautista Road.
Cal Fire established unified command with the USFS Wednesday, and the Riverside County Emergency Management Department declared a local emergency, 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 deaths 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 13 buildings have been destroyed and four have been damaged.
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.