Hwy 243 Reopens as Crews Stop Spread of Gorgonio Fire

By Samantha Tata
|  Sunday, May 5, 2013  |  Updated 8:13 PM PDT
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510-Acre Gorgonio Fire Is Fully Contained

A viewer sent NBC4 this photo of the Banning brush fire on Saturday, May 4, 2013.

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An 8-mile stretch of Highway 243 through Banning reopened Saturday afternoon, more than a full day after a vegetation fire prompted authorities to close the roadway.

More than 400 firefighters have stopped the forward spread of the fire, which was 75 percent contained as of 2 p.m. Saturday, according to the Riverside County Fire Department. Crews had the fire fully contained by 6:40 p.m.

Authorities initially estimated the fire consumed 650 acres, but said Sunday night that the final size is closer to 510 acres.

Dubbed the Gorgonio Fire, the blaze erupted Saturday morning in steep, rugged terrain. It tripled in size in a matter of hours amid wind gusts up to 20 mph.

The Gorgonio Fire broke out 9 miles north of the huge Summit Fire which forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents and scorched more than 3,100 acres near Banning.

State Route 243, which connects the Inland Empire cities of Banning and Idyllwild, was closed from Poppet Flats Road to South San Gorgonio Avenue and Wesley Street. The closure went into effect at 3 p.m. Saturday and was lifted at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Motorists are urged to be careful when driving through the stretch because fire engines and crews are still stationed in the area.

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