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Lightning Touches Off Small Fires, Strikes Couple in Field

Storms: Man and woman are reported to be in good condition after a bolt hits their umbrella. Rain in Idyllwild is blamed in fatal traffic accident.

August 24, 1996|From Associated Press

Lightning jolted two people in Moreno Valley and ignited several small brush fires Friday as a line of thunderstorms moved through Southern California mountains and deserts.

Storms spawned by moist, tropical air passed through the area in the afternoon, extending in a miles-long line from San Bernardino southward. Scattered storms with spotty rain were possible through Sunday, said Bruce Rockwell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

"The lightning can travel from cloud to cloud and from ground to ground. . . . You do trigger brush fires and forest fires," he said.

In Riverside County, two people were hit by lightning in Moreno Valley about 2:30 p.m., said Joanne Evans, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry.

"They were walking through a field. They had an umbrella. The lightning hit the umbrella and knocked them to the ground," Evans said.

The man complained of hand pain and the woman complained of elbow pain. They were taken to Moreno Valley Community Hospital for treatment and were to be released in good condition," said hospital spokeswoman Karen Roberts.

More than two dozen lightning strikes were reported between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. in the Palm Springs area. "We've had some small lightning strike fires" that were quickly extinguished, Evans said.

The National Weather Service said Idyllwild, a mountain resort, got 0.87 of an inch of rain.

There was just enough rain "to get the streets running" and cause a rash of traffic accidents, including one that killed a person, she added.

Skies darkened and wind gusts kicked up dust and embers at the site of a 548-acre blaze in nearby Cabazon.

"They had some flare-ups within the line," she said, but crews kept them in check. The fire was 80% contained and was expected to be circled by nightfall, she added.

The cooler weather provided some brief relief to fire crews that had been working in 100-degree heat. Two crew members were treated for heat exhaustion.

The storms rolled through a day after federal and state fire officials warned that September and October are the most dangerous months for wildfires in California because they generally bring rainless lightning and hot, dry Santa Ana winds.

Further north, firefighters were being released from the site of a 106,600-acre fire in the Los Padres National Forest. About 1,100 firefighters were mopping up the week-old blaze, which was contained Thursday night.

Full control was expected by Sunday night. Until then, hunters and campers were told that all roads into the forest were closed for their safety, and for firefighting use only. Firefighting costs were put at $6.9 million.

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