More than a hundred youth campers, including 60 San Diego County kids, attending a summer camp in Idyllwild were forced to evacuate because of a raging wildfire burning between Hemet and Mountain Center.
The religious camp’s mission is to give kids a deeper connection with nature, but Wednesday afternoon they were running from it.
The United States Forest Service (USFS) advised residents to leave the area immediately when the Cranston Fire erupted in Riverside County's San Jacinto Mountains Wednesday afternoon. At least 110 homes were evacuated and about 600 structures were threatened by the blaze.
“It’s scary because you don’t know how much time you have or how fast the fire is going to come so you want to make sure you’re ready for it and get out of there as fast as you can,” Camp Maranatha Director Brian Reeves said.
Pictures show how close the fire roared near their campground before staff and the hundred-plus campers were forced to evacuate.
By Wednesday night, the Cranston Fire has consumed about 4,700 acres of land and destroyed five homes. The fire was 5 percent contained.
Authorities have established an evacuation center for residents and campers at Banning High School, 100 W. Westward Ave.
The San Diego kids, some as young as 6 years old, were taken there and will eventually be reunited with their families.
None of the children were harmed, but their guardians remained worried until the moment their children were wrapped in their arms.
“Praise God the kids are safe,” parent Lo Amador said. “They got down OK.”
With all the campers safe, Reeves’ focus has turned to the raging wildfire -- possibly sparked by an arsonist -- that's threatening lives and homes, including his family's which is on the campgrounds.
“As long as everyone is OK you can get new stuff,” he said. “You can rebuild, so I feel like the most important thing was taken care of.’
Brandon N. McGlover, 32, of Temecula, was arrested on suspicion of arson Wednesday night after he was accused of setting multiple fires, including the Cranston Fire.
California Highway Patrol Officer Darren Meyer said a motorist spotted "near the origin of the fire" was detained.
Reeves says Camp Maranatha is no stranger to fire danger. This is at least the third time since he’s been there that it's been evacuated.
“There are still people up there. I just pray for their safety and safety of firefighters and all the people risking their lives to save other people,” Reeves said.