Firefighting crews on Friday continued to gain control over the first of two massive wildfires that ravaged thousands of acres in Southern California, prompting evacuations and worries as temperatures rose and strong winds whipped through the region.
The Summit Fire in Banning was 75 percent contained as of 6:30 p.m. Friday, according to the Riverside County Fire Department’s online incident report. It has consumed about 2,956 acres, a figure that has held steady since 9 p.m. Wednesday.
"Resources will remain on scene throughout the day as they continue improving containment lines and patrolling the fire area to extinguish any hot spots or flare ups," according to a Riverside County Fire Department statement.
In the 12 hours since an update provided at 6:30 a.m., firefighters had increased their containment lines from 65 percent to 75 precent of the Summit Fire.
"Residents are urged to exercise caution when driving through the fire area, including yielding to fire apparatus and obeying road closure barriers where posted," CAL Fire said in its online update.
The cause remained under investigation.
The fire was first reported near North San Gorgonio Avenue and Summit Drive about 12:40 p.m. Wednesday, Jody Hagemann of the Riverside County Fire Department said.
About 400 firefighters, 30 engine trucks, four helicopters and one air tanker joined the second day of the firefight. Some 425 first responders from several cities and agencies rushed to Riverside County on Wednesday to battle the blaze.
Driven by windy, dry conditions, the wildfire spread quickly through medium brush and steep terrain. At least one home burned and two firefighters suffered minor injuries.
Crews raced overnight to take advantage of slowing winds because gusts were expected to pick up Thursday, officials said.
Within hours of the wildfire’s ignition, some 700 residents were evacuated or told to shelter in place as the then-growing blaze came dangerously close to homes.
All evacuation orders, including those for the 200-unit Highland Springs Mobile Home Park, were rescinded late Wednesday.
An evacuation center was opened at the Banning Community Services Center, 789 N. San Gorgonio Ave.
An evacuation center for small animals affected by the fire was opened at San Jacinto Valley Animal Services, 581 S. Grand Ave. and a center for large animals at Noble Creek Park, 390 Oak Valley Parkway in Beaumont.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke and windblown dust advisory for the area, warning that air quality was at unhealthy levels. Residents should avoid strenuous outdoor activities, keep windows and doors closed and run an air conditioner, according to air quality officials.