Thousands Evacuated as Calif. Mountain Fire Rages

Evacuation orders remain in effect for the 22,800 acre fire that has burned since Monday

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    A huge wildfire near the mountain community of Idyllwild has forced the evacuations of thousands of residents and nearby camps. The fire has burned more than 22,000 acres. Tony Shin reports from Lake Hemet for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on July 18, 2013.

    A wildfire in the scenic San Jacinto Mountains spread to within two miles of the Southern California resort destination of Palm Springs Thursday, covering more than 35 square miles and prompting more evacuations.

    By its fourth day, the Mountain Fire had scorched 22,800 acres and destroyed 23 structures, including seven homes. Some 6,000 people have been ordered evacuated from the blaze, burning about 100 miles east of Los Angeles.

    Residents React to "Monster Fire"

    [LA] Residents React to "Monster Fire"
    A resident in the path of the 35-square mile Mountain Fire 100 miles east of Los Angeles was packed and ready to go as 6,000 people were evacuated. Jacob Rascon reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Thursday, July 18, 2013.

    By Thursday night, the cost of the fire had reached $6.1 million, Forest Service spokesman John Miller said in an statement.

    RELATED: Mountain Fire photos | Firefighters Brace for Fierce Fire Season | Hotel Discounts for Fire Evacuees

    Mountain Fire Rages into 4th Day

    [LA] Mountain Fire Rages into 4th Day
    A fire in the Inland Empire area of Lake Hemet has grown to more than 30-square miles. Jacob Rascon reports for Today in LA on Thursday, July 18, 2013.

    At an early afternoon news conference on Thursday, officials said the massive blaze -- though within two miles of Palm Springs' western border -- was being kept from populated areas.

    "We are putting in place a strategy to work our way east ... to contain the fire,'' U.S. Forest Service fire Chief Jeanne Pincha-Tulley said.

    Concerned Residents Evacuate From Idyllwild

    [LA] Concerned Residents Evacuate From Idyllwild
    Thousands in Idyllwild were forced to evacuate Wednesday as the Mountain Fire push north toward homes and businesses in the resort town. Tony Shin reports from Idyllwild for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on July 17, 2013.

    "We've lost three permanent homes and three mobile homes, but we got everybody out safe and sound,'' Pincha-Tulley said. "We've got hotshots, Cal Fire resources and quite a fleet of aircraft available. We're doing pretty well. We are the national priority right now.''

    Nearly 3,000 firefighters with 228 fire engines were working on the Mountain Fire, according to a Thursday morning report from fire officials. From the air, 17 helicopters, 10 fixed-wing aircraft -- including a DC-10 -- were battling flames.

    Mountain Fire Continues to Grow, Prompts Summer Camp Evacuations

    [LA] Mountain Fire Continues to Grow, Prompts Summer Camp Evacuations
    The 14,000-acre Mountain Fire continued to burn to the north and east of Idyllwild in Riverside County Wednesday. The fire is causing health concerns for people who have respiratory problems, as smoke and ash falls in the Palm Desert area. The air conditions forced a summer camp for kids with cancer to evacuate. Tony Shin reports from Lake Hemet for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on July 17, 2013.

    The fight against the fire had so far cost about $5.5 million, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

    Area residents, meanwhile, dealt with the fear of losing their homes. The nearby town of Idyllwild looked like a ghost town after it was evacuated Wednesday night.

    Mountain Fire Destruction Is "Very Sad"

    [LA] Mountain Fire Destruction Is "Very Sad"
    “It hurts me very much to see this happen. It’s very sad,” says a Garner Valley resident of the Mountain Fire, which had consumed more than 14,000 acres by Wednesday in the San Jacinto Mountains. Toni Guinyard reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on July 17, 2013.

    "It's grown into a monster that we haven't seen before," said San Jacinto Valley resident Ralph Savory, who was packed up and ready to go if deputies ordered him to evacuate. "We're waiting for the word. Got our cars packed. All we got left is us and our dogs."

    Many residents such as Barb Lundquist chose to sleep in their cars.

    Idyllwild Fire Burns East in Steep Terrain

    [LA] Idyllwild Fire Burns East Through Steep Terrain
    The Mountain Fire near Idyllwild continues to burn out of control on Wednesday, two days after it began. NBC4's Toni Guinyard reports for Today in on July 17, 2013.

    "I didn't think it was going to happen,” she said. “I didn't think they were going to evacuate us."

    All she could think about was whether she would lose her Idyllwild home she's lived in for three decades.

    Mountain Fire Burns Toward Palm Springs, Destroys at Least 6 Homes

    [LA] Mountain Fire Burns Toward Palm Springs, Destroys at Least 6 Homes
    The “Mountain Fire” in Idyllwild continued to burn Tuesday, and started to move towards Palm Desert. The fire destroyed at least two homes, and prompted evacuations across the desert community. Tony Shin reports from Lake Hemet for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on July 16, 2013.

    "I'm exhausted,” she said. “I don't even know what time it is."

    Evacuation orders remained in effect for Idyllwild east of State Route 243, Fern Valley, Trails End, Mount San Jacinto State Park and nearby San Bernardino National Forest areas. Residents were allowed to return to Bonita Vista and the Apple Canyon area Thursday night. Details were posted online.

    "Devastating" Mountain Fire Burns Homes

    [LA] "Devastating" Mountain Fire Burns Homes
    A very aggressive wildfire burned through 8,000 acres in the dry, rugged San Jacinto Mountains after breaking on Monday afternoon, burning homes and forcing evacuations. Tony Shin reports from Lake Hemet for the NBC4 News at Noon on July 16, 2013.

    The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which takes visitors nearly 6,000 feet up steep Chino Canyon, was closed Thursday.

    Pincha-Tulley said the expanded evacuations were necessary in case the fire took a turn toward Idyllwild.

    "If the fire goes over the slopes and makes a major run (downhill), we wouldn't have much time to get people out of there,'' Pincha-Tulley said. "We asked everybody to leave last night so we can secure the area without worrying about folks getting in the way.''

    Crews from many agencies were working on the fire, and a news release from a U.S. Forest Service spokesman said firefighters' focus was on protecting homes in Idyllwild and elsewhere.

    "White, red and green fire engines and crew trucks can be seen throughout the town. The fire is color blind," Forest Service spokesman Miller wrote.

    The Mountain Fire broke out Monday afternoon in steep, rugged terrain on private property just off State Highway 243 in the community of Mountain Center, south of Idyllwild (map).

    Evacuation centers were set up at the following locations:

    • Hemet High School, 41701 E. Stetson Ave., Hemet;
    • Hamilton High School, 57430 Mitchell Road, Anza;
    • Large and small animals can be brought to the San Jacinto Animal Shelter, 581 S. Grand Ave.

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