Firefighters make progress battling Calif wildfire

BANNING, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters continued to make progress overnight battling Southern California’s latest destructive wildfire, which burned 26 homes and threatened more than 500 others in the San Jacinto Mountains.

Riverside County fire’s Jeff La Russo said full containment of the more than 30-square-mile blaze is expected Monday.

The Silver Fire charred roughly 19,400 acres and is 75 percent contained. The fire stopped advancing Saturday as firefighters focused on extinguishing hot spots.

The blaze injured 10 firefighters and seriously burned a mountain biker who was overrun by the fast-moving flames when the fire erupted Wednesday.

At its peak, the fire forced the evacuation of 1,800 people, including 800 campers. Evacuation orders for several communities remain in effect; some campgrounds and trails are also closed.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared an emergency for the area Friday, freeing up additional funds and resources for the firefight and recovery.

Containment was initially expected by Sunday, but inaccessible terrain deterred firefighters from getting to certain hotspots. More than 1,800 firefighters continue to battle the blaze, with crews hiking two to three hours to get to the fire line, La Russo said.

Most of Southern California’s severe wildfires are associated with Santa Ana winds, caused by high pressure over the West that sends a clockwise flow of air rushing down into the region. The same area burned, pushed along with those infamous winds, in the 2006 Esperanza Fire.

This week’s fire, however, was fanned by a counter-clockwise flow around a low pressure area over northwest California. “It was basically the Esperanza in reverse, covering that same style of terrain,” La Russo said.

On Sunday, fire officials expected higher temperatures and lower humidity as a high pressure system from Texas moved into the area. More than 1,840 firefighters continued to work the blaze.

“We’re getting to the point now where we’ve got enough containment,” La Russo said. “Without a major weather pattern change, we’re not expecting anything to get further out of hand.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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