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Riverside County Fires Burn 450 Acres

August 09, 2006|Maeve Reston | Times Staff Writer

Firefighters in Riverside County on Tuesday tackled two blazes that burned more than 450 acres near San Jacinto and Banning -- at one point forcing the evacuation of 13 vacation cottages in Soboba Hot Springs.

Officials are still investigating the cause of the Golf fire, which ignited west of the Soboba Indian Reservation shortly after 2 p.m. By Tuesday evening it had charred 250 acres in a hilly area near San Jacinto.

Riverside County fire officials, fearing the blaze could spread to 1,000 acres, evacuated about 10 people staying in cottages adjacent to a country club owned by the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians. They also called for voluntary evacuations for the residents of 40 larger homes in the community.

More than 180 firefighters, four air tankers and 10 fire crews were tending to the blaze Tuesday evening, and one firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion. Officials closed Soboba Road between Gilman Springs and Lake Park Drive.

Although officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Agency in Riverside County were initially concerned about how quickly the fire was spreading through the hills, Capt. Julie L. Hutchinson said steady weather conditions and winds of less than 10 mph aided firefighters later in the day.

"Our hand crews are doing a really good job," Hutchinson said. "The fire is still burning, but on the other side, away from the homes."

More than 315 firefighters were expected to contain a second blaze, called the Mountain fire, in Banning by late Tuesday evening. The fire, which scorched about 200 acres, was ignited when a bird flew into two electrical wires and set grass on fire after it dropped to the ground, Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said the fire initially threatened about 200 homes along a ridge known as Banning Bench, about a mile from the fire. But there were no evacuations, and officials lifted road closures to let residents into the area Tuesday afternoon.

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