Cranston Fire: Crews in Idyllwild continue to battle 7,500-acre blaze amid excessive heat warning

Friday, July 27, 2018
Cranston Fire explodes to 7,500 acres in Idyllwild
Firefighters in Idyllwild continued to battle a 7,500-acre brush fire that erupted the previous day and spread quickly.

IDYLLWILD, Calif. (KABC) -- Firefighters in the Idyllwild area on Thursday morning continued to battle a 7,500-acre brush fire that erupted the previous day and spread quickly, destroying five homes and prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency.

As part of the declaration, Brown ordered California's Office of Emergency Services to provide government assistance to Riverside County, and suspended a one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance benefits for those unemployed as a result of the Cranston Fire.

The blaze began about noon Wednesday as the result of arson, according to authorities. A Temecula man, 32-year-old Brandon N. McGlover, was later arrested and booked on five counts for allegedly igniting several fires in Riverside County. His bail was set at $1 million.

Cal Fire Capt. Scott Visyak said fire crews will focus Thursday on the Apple Canyon area as well as Lake Hemet based on the predicted weather, the fuel loads and the terrain.

"It's going to be hot, it's going to be dry and the winds are going to pick up and there's still a lot of fire burning out there so we've got a big concern just on firefighter safety alone," Visyak said.

Approximately 6,000 people fled from their neighborhoods in Idyllwild, Apple Canyon, Lake Hemet, Mountain Center, Hurkey Creek, along with the Camp Scherman Girls Scouts camp. Authorities said nearly 5,000 structures were threatened by the fire.

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department issued additional mandatory evacuations Thursday for Fern Valley, Pine Cove and Cedar Glen.

By Thursday afternoon, new evacuation orders were issued for the north side of Garner Valley. All homes accessed from roads north of Hialeah Way were told to leave.

All homes south of Hialeah, including those accessed from Hialeah, are under an evacuation warning.

But some homeowners were determined to stay and take a stand against the flames.

"Once that wind hit, man, it was just incredible," said Idyllwild resident Mario Deniz. "Everybody took off and we were the last ones here but, you know, it's our homes. What can we do?"

Flames avoided Idyllwild resident Suzanna Croffer's home, but her neighbor was not so lucky.

"Our neighbor's house across the way was totally unbelievable," she said. "Their house is totally gone."

Some 1,000 firefighters were at the scene east of Hemet, where the brushfire was burning along Highway 74. Fueled by timber, brush, and chaparral as high as 6 feet, the inferno was only 5 percent contained as of midafternoon.

Two firefighters suffered unknown injuries.

The fire also caused power outages for about 4,000 people in Idyllwild, according to SoCal Edison. The community was shrouded in smoke most of Thursday as firefighters were concerned the blaze could make it into the area.

While the Idyllwild community remains under mandatory evacuation orders, residents who stayed behind worry that the Cranston Fire could move toward their community and destroy it.

All morning long air tankers made lines all over the ridge crest not far from the mountain community to keep the flames away. While the area is under evacuation orders, many people still remained in the area

The emergency personnel represented a slew of agencies, including Cal Fire, the Riverside and Los Angeles County fire departments and the San Bernardino National Forest agency.

They were assisted by fire-retardant drops from air tankers and a decrease in wind conditions in the area, but temperatures were expected to reach 91 degrees amid 57 percent humidity.

Brown's declaration also applied to Shasta County, where the Carr Fire has burned more than 20,000 acres and also forced the evacuation of thousands. That blaze was 10 percent contained.