[LA FEATURE]California Wildfires

LA FEATURE

Coverage of brush fires across the state

Mountain Fire Fully Contained After Raging for 16 Days

The blaze was finally completely extinguished, and the cost of battling the flames had reached a staggering $25.8 million

By Christina Cocca
|  Wednesday, Jul 31, 2013  |  Updated 12:44 AM PDT
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Mountain Fire Fully Contained

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Firefighters head from base camp to fight the Mountain Fire July 18, 2013 near Idyllwild, California. The massive wildfire in Riverside County has scorched 43-square miles and prompted the evacuation of thousands of people.


The massive Mountain Fire that raged through the San Jacinto Mountains for nearly two and a half weeks was 100 percent contained as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to a US Forest Service news release.

The fire destroyed 23 structures, including seven homes in its first day, and burned through 27,531 acres -- or 43 square miles -- since July 15.

A Burned Area Response Team was conducting an assessment of the area Tuesday night to determine if any other actions are necessary, including work to stabilize the soil and control water, sediment and debris movement.

Residents and visitors in the area may see smoke toward the north end of the fire due to heavy fuels smoldering within the perimeter, officials said.

Portions of the San Jacinto Ranger District including the San Jacinto Wilderness remained closed to public use. The Pacific Crest Trail north of State Highway 74 to Snow Creek was closed to public use, and Mt. San Jacinto State Park was closed in all areas except for Idyllwild State Campground and Stone Creek Camp Ground, according to the release.

The cost to fight the blaze reached $25.8 million as of Tuesday night.

The resort town of Idyllwild was evacuated for nearly a week after the massive wildfire erupted. Flames crept close to Idyllwild, but never damaged a single building in the town.

Investigators are blaming electrical equipment failure on a private property for sparking the blaze.

"The electrical equipment failure occurred on the customer side of the meter," Cal Fire said in a news release. "No further details will be released as this remains an on-going investigation.”

While it's not known yet whether excess brush, neglected equipment or another factor lead to the fire, officials say there is a clear lesson.

"The biggest lesson for everybody is, a wildfire can strike at any time and that people need to be prepared," Cal Fire Battalion Chief Julie Hutchinson said.

At one point, flames reached over the crest of the mountains and within two miles of the western border of Palm Springs – draping the resort destination in a blanket of ash and smoke.

Thousands of residents were evacuated from several mountain communities, including Mountain Center, Idyllwild, Fern Valley, and Pine Cove.

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