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Deadly Fairview Fire Explodes to Nearly 20,000 Acres in Riverside County

The Fairview Fire has now torn through almost 20,000 acres of Riverside County near Hemet, quadrupling in size in around 24 hours.

The huge wildfire first sparked just after 3:30 p.m. on Monday, and in less than 24 hours killed at least two people. By Wednesday morning, it had burned about 5,000 acres, and by Wednesday night, it had exploded to a whopping 19,377 acres, with fire crews containing 5% of the fire.

During a press conference early on Tuesday, fire officials said the blaze could stretch to up to 7,000 acres, though they are making efforts to mitigate the wildfire at a much smaller level.

The official cause of the fire is still unknown, but Southern Califonia Edison said Wednesday that it is investigating circuit activity around the time the fire began.

Deaths and Damage

At least two people have died as the result of the Fairview Fire, and a third was injured.

According to fire officials, the two people who died appeared to be attempting to leave the area when they were overtaken by the fire as it moved rapidly through Avery Canyon.

Officials cannot yet identify the two people who died, but they do believe they were from the same household. Their identities have not yet been confirmed by authorities.

Family told NBCLA that the two were a father and daughter, Ian Matthew Compton and Mikayla Porter.

The third person was found outside the car with “major injuries,” fire officials said. That person is part of the same family as the two people who died — Ian Compton’s wife, according to family — and is recovering at a hospital.

No other injuries have yet been reported, according to fire officials.

At least seven structures have been destroyed, and a number of other structures have been damaged. More information about those damaged and destroyed buildings is expected later Tuesday.

A boil water advisory was issued Tuesday morning by the Eastern Municipal Water District, for “residents of fire affected areas in east Hemet.”

Approximately 50 homes in the area including all of Polly Butte Road and the area east of 41477 Gibbel Road should “only use boiled tap water or bottled water for drinking and cooking purposes as a safety precaution to avoid stomach or intestinal illness,” until further notice.

Evacuations

The Riverside Fire Department along with CAL Fire have issued an evacuation order in these areas, as of 6 a.m. Tuesday:

  • South of Stetson Road
  • North of Cactus Valley Road
  • West of Bautista Canyon Road
  • East of State Street

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday:

  • South of Cactus Valley Road
  • East of Sage Road
  • North of Red Mountain Road
  • West of Bautista Canyon in Sage

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday:

  • North of Minto Way
  • West of U.S. Forest Service Boundary

As of midnight going into Thursday:

  • South of Minto Road
  • South of Red Mountain Road
  • West of Stanley Road
  • North of Stanely Road
  • East of Sage Road

Anyone in those areas must evacuate their homes.

Evacuation warnings have also been ordered for:

  • East of Sage Road
  • West of Reed Valley Road
  • West of the Forest Service boundary
  • South of Stanley Road
  • North of Wilson Valley Road
  • East of Red Mountain Road and the Cahuilla Mountain U.S. Forest Service Boundary
  • North of Stanley Road
  • East of De Portola Road
  • West of Sage Road
  • North of East Benton Road
  • South of Diamond Valley Road

Fire officials said early Wednesday that they have gone to over 3,700 homes to ask people to leave the area. Some of those people are choosing to shelter in place, with “maybe a quarter of those people” leaving the area.

With the rapidly changing nature of the fire, officials urged people to leave asked those in evacuation order and warning areas to be prepared to leave quickly.

“We ask for your cooperation, we beg for your cooperation on these evacuation orders, and even the warnings,” fire officials said. “Fire is very unpredictable, and moves very, very fast.”

An evacuation center has been set up at Tahquitz High School in Hemet, located at 2245 Titan Trail.

Evacuees meeting at Tahquitz High School can bring their small animals with them. Animal services will assist them with their small animals.

After closing on Tuesday and Wednesday, all schools in the Hemet Unified School District will remain closed through the rest of the week due to the wildfire.

“This decision was not made lightly, but after considering local authorities’ advice and evacuation orders, transportation impacts, the current level of fire containment, and the possibility of power outages with anticipated high temperatures, we strongly felt that closing schools was necessary to ensure the safety of our students, staff, and families,” the district said in a statement.

The school district will advice students and families with updates to the school closure.

State Resources

Late on Tuesday morning, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant to help ensure resources are available to fight the fire.

The grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will “help ensure the availability of vital resources to suppress the Fairview Fire.”

It also allows local governments to apply for up to 75% reimbursement for the cost of fighting fires, and is provided through the President’s Disaster Relief Fund.

Fairview Fire

The Fairview Fire was first reported around 3:37 p.m. Monday, as a brush fire on Fairview Ave. and Bautista Road.

Wind travelling in unexpected directions for the time of year caused the fire to spread rapidly down Avery Canyon.

By Tuesday morning the fire was up to 2,400 acres, and by Tuesday evening, it had doubled in size to 4,500 acres.

Over the course of Wednesday, the fire quadrupled in size, going from 5,000 acres in the early morning hours to 19,377 acres in the evening.

Southern California Edison is investigating how the fire may have started, and put out a statement on their investigation.

“Our information reflects circuit activity occurring close in time to the reported time of the fire,” the statement read in part. “With safety as our number one priority, we continue to make progress on our wildfire mitigation efforts.”

California’s ongoing drought has also contributed to the fast spread of the wildfire, with dry vegetation throughout the region providing easy fuel for the wildfire, fire officials said during a press conference early Tuesday morning.

A brutal, week-long heat wave in Southern California has not helped the dry conditions.

Fuel moisture levels are well below historic averages in parts of Southern California, meaning vegetation is drying out more quickly this year. Dry vegetation is one significant factor in the spread of wildfires.

The state came out of one of its driest late winters on record, leaving hillsides covered in dry brush.

California continues to face longer wildfire seasons as a direct result of climate change, according to CAL FIRE.

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Source: NBC Los Angeles

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