Holy Fire Progress Slowed as Containment Increases - NBC Southern California

Holy Fire Progress Slowed as Containment Increases

Some mandatory evacuations were being lifted as firefighters increased containment of the flames.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Holy Fire Progress Slowed as Containment Increases
    Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
    Cal Fire fireman John Ruskovich takes care of few hot spots from Holy Fire in McVicker Canyon neighborhood of Lake Elsinore.

    Firefighters have slowed the progress of a suspected arson fire that forced thousands of evacuations as it burned in Riverside and Orange Counties.

    The Holy Fire, which erupted Monday afternoon and rampaged through dry brush and steep terrain as temperatures soared, had burned 22,714 acres but was 51 percent contained Sunday evening, the Cleveland National Forest said.

    Initially the blaze, which was also burning in CNF land, forced the evacuation of more than 7,400 homes and about 21,400 people. By Sunday, firefighters had made enough progress to where some mandatory and voluntary evacuations were lifted, including that of the Machado, Shoreline and Sycamore Creek communities. By the evening, evacuations were also lifted for the Lake Elsinore community of Riverside.

    Horsethief Canyon, Rice Canyon and McVivker Drainage had evacuation orders rescinded earlier Saturday. Highway 74, the Ortega Highway remained closed.

    Since it erupted Monday afternoon, the Holy fire has destroyed a dozen cabins in the Holy Jim Canyon area of the Cleveland National Forest and advanced into Riverside County. While the blaze continued its unrelenting march, U.S. Forest Service officials said Thursday they "expect favorable weather conditions this weekend" to help the firefighting effort.

    On Thursday afternoon, the flames raced downhill toward Lake Elsinore, threatening homes and prompting mandatory evacuation orders for homes fronting the mountains. As a roaring firefighting air tanker soared overhead, at least one resident used a garden hose in an effort to protect homes.

    "It's right there on the hill ... and there's active firefighting going on right now" to keep the flames from homes, said Thanh Nguyen of the Garden Grove Fire Department, who is one of the spokesman for the firefighting effort.

    What started as voluntary evacuations around 1:30 p.m. quickly escalated in 30 minutes to mandatory evacuations, Nguyen said. At their height, the flames appeared to be licking at the backs of homes closest to the mountains, but a series of precision drops of water and fire retardant successfully deflected the blaze, at least temporarily, and there were no immediate reports of homes being damaged in the area.

    A large swath of homes, however, was bathed fire retardant, creating the appearance of a bright red river cutting through the threatened neighborhood. Riverside County sheriff's deputies stepped up patrols in the evacuated areas to prevent looting, Nguyen said.

    The Holy Fire is being fed by thick, tinder-dry brush that hasn't burned in nearly four decades. The fire was reported about 1:15 p.m. Monday near Holy Jim Canyon and Trabuco Creek roads, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Tony Bommarito said.

    What started as voluntary evacuations around 1:30 p.m. quickly escalated in 30 minutes to mandatory evacuations, Nguyen said. At their height, the flames appeared to be licking at the backs of homes closest to the mountains, but a series of precision drops of water and fire retardant successfully deflected the blaze, at least temporarily, and there were no immediate reports of homes being damaged in the area.

    A large swath of homes, however, was bathed fire retardant, creating the appearance of a bright red river cutting through the threatened neighborhood. Riverside County sheriff's deputies stepped up patrols in the evacuated areas to prevent looting, Nguyen said.

    The Holy Fire is being fed by thick, tinder-dry brush that hasn't burned in nearly four decades. The fire was reported about 1:15 p.m. Monday near Holy Jim Canyon and Trabuco Creek roads, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Tony Bommarito said.

    The fire dramatically increased in size near the Horsethief Canyon area on Wednesday, then jumped the North Main Divide dirt road, burning into the Lake Elsinore area of Riverside County, Bommarito said. As the fire advanced into Riverside County, mandatory evacuation orders were issued for McVicker Canyon, Rice Canyon, Horsethief Canyon, Glen Eden, El Cariso Village, Sycamore Creek and Rancho Capistrano, along with the Ortega (74) Highway corridor from the Lookout restaurant to the Nichols Institute.

    Weather conditions with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees and relative humidity below 15 percent created conditions conducive to extreme fire behavior as well as heat illnesses for the firefighters, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory through Friday in Orange County and portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties because of the Holy fire.

    In Los Angeles, the advisory covers the east and south San Gabriel Valley and Pomona/Walnut Valley.

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