Riverside County

Cranston Fire Grows Hundreds of Acres as Firefighters Battle for Containment

The blaze, burning in Riverside County, has grown to more than 13,000 acres.

What to Know

  • The fire has consumed nearly 13,200 acres as it burns in Riverside County.
  • More than 7,000 people remain evacuated, and more than 4,900 structures remain threatened.
  • A 32-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of setting the fire.

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Southern California firefighters continued to try to tame a suspected arson wildfire in Riverside County as the blaze grew nearly 1,000 acres overnight.

The Cranston Fire, which began Wednesday just before noon and is burning in the San Bernardino National Forest, had grown to 13,118 acres around 7 a.m. Saturday, with 17 percent containment, as the flames threatened more than 4,900 structures, the forest service announced.

By Saturday night at 7:25 p.m., the fire was 29 percent contained.

More than 7,000 people in Mountain Center, Idyllwild, Hurkey Creek, San Jacinto Mountain State Park, Fern Valley, Pine Cove, Cedar Glen and Garner Valley remained under mandatory evacuation orders Saturday morning as the blaze "remained fairly active" into the night and ripped through a fire retardant line above Idyllwild, the forest service said. Crews and aircraft will now try to establish another retardant line in the area.

Two firefighters have been injured battling the flames, but no deaths have been reported, the USF said.

Banning High School and Hamilton High School have been established as evacuation centers. They are located at 100 W. Westward Ave. and 57430 Mitchell Rd., respectively.

Dysart Equestrian Center, San Jacinto Valley Animal Hospital and Coachella Animal Campus are acting as animal evacuation centers, with Coachella Animal Campus taking in small animals. Residents who need help evacuation animals can call Riverside Animal Services at 951-358-7350.

Brandon N. McGlover, 32, was arrested Wednesday night on suspicion of setting the fire and several other fires that same day in the southwest Riverside County area and along Highway 74.

He faces 15 felony counts, including one count of aggravated arson, five counts of arson of an inhabited structure, and nine counts of arson of forest or wildland.

Highway 243 remained closed from Banning Avenue to Highway 74 Saturday morning. Highway 74, meanwhile, is closed from Bronco Street in Hemet to Highway 371.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday issued a state of emergency in Riverside County, which clears the way to provide needed state resources. The fire was burning "with a rapid rate of spread" through timber, brush and chaparral, according to the USFS, which reported that more than 1,300 firefighters from across the state were taking part in the containment efforts.

Cal Fire has reported nearly 3,400 wildfires this year across California that have burned about 99,000 acres. In 2017, the state's firefighting agency reported 3,200 wildfires that burned more than 216,000 acres through the first seven months of the year.

Last year was one of the most deadly and destructive on record in terms of wildfires in California. Forty-six people were killed and more than 11,000 homes were destroyed by wildfires in 2017. More than 9,000 fires burned 1.2 million acres across California.

The significant increase in the numbers and size of fires last year was largely because the state was coming off one of its wettest winters in years in 2016-2017, which left hillsides covered in grass and other vegetation. That grass dried out in summer and turned into tinder, providing fuel for rapidly spreading fires often pushed by strong winds that can carry hot embers for miles and turn small spot fires into infernos.

An increase in the number of dead and dying trees also has exacerbated the wildfire threat, Cal Fire officials said.

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