Orange County

Evacuations Lifted for Homes Near 2,000-Acre Canyon Fire

The blaze prompted the evacuation of some 1,500 people from around 500 Riverside County homes

Evacuations were lifted Wednesday morning for homes near the 2,000-acre Canyon fire, which started Monday near the border of Orange and Riverside counties.

Crews worked on the ground and in the air as they increased containment Wednesday of the wind-fanned wildfire adjacent to the Riverside (91) Freeway. The fire prompted the evacuation of some 1,500 people from around 500 Riverside County homes.

Containment was up to 20 percent early Wednesday, marking the start of the third day of firefighting in the hills above Corona. Dubbed the Canyon Fire, the blaze broke out about 1 p.m. Monday alongside the eastbound Riverside Freeway, just west of Green River Road in west Corona then spread to Coal Canyon Road off the freeway, said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi. The cause of the blame remains unknown.

The fire began spreading around 3 p.m. Monday, fanned by Santa Ana winds blowing at 20 to 25 mph. By Monday night, it had charred about 2,000 acres and damaged a big rig, Concialdi said.

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Firefighters were battling the blaze amid highs in the 90s.

"We're anticipating with the wind -- with the north and northeast winds -- that we could get some spread, but again, we have nine helicopters and nine fixed-wing aircraft that will be actively committed today, as well has hundreds of firefighters on the ground to get this fire under control and in check,'' Concialdi said.

Fire crews confirmed that one house was damaged by the flames, although the extent was not immediately known. It was unclear if any of the other roughly 500 homes that were threatened Monday suffered any damage.

"When we talk about 500 homes that were threatened, it takes time for assessment teams to go out there to see if any homes were damaged,'' Concialdi said. "But we know of one that has been confirmed that has been damaged. No homes have been destroyed."

A Corona police officer directing traffic was injured by a hit-and-run driver about 8:30 p.m. Monday at Green River Road and Montana Ranch Road, according to Corona police Detective Andy Bryant.

David Shaheen, 53, of Corona, was booked on suspicion of felony hit-and- run for allegedly driving around traffic control barriers at the intersection and hitting the patrol officer, Bryant said. The officer was taken to a hospital where he was treated and released, Bryant said.

"Fortunately for him he was wearing his helmet because he hit his head on the ground," Bryant said.

Shaheen posted bail and was released, Bryant said.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered Monday for about 500 homes, affecting roughly 1,500 residents in the Dominguez Ranch area of Corona, Concialdi said.

Late Tuesday afternoon, fire officials reopened access to homes north of Green River Road and Foothill Parkway. Only residents with valid identification were being permitted into the area.

Mandatory evacuations remained in effect for homes south of Green River Road and Foothill Parkway.

An evacuation shelter was set up in the gymnasium at Corona High School.

[la gallery] Canyon Fire Scorches Hillside in Corona

Battling the blaze were firefighters from the Anaheim, Corona, and Los Angeles County fire departments, the OCFA, U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire.

The fire prompted the Corona Norco Unified School District to cancel classes Tuesday at four schools -- Coronita Elementary School, John Adams Elementary School, Cesar Chavez Academy and Prado View Elementary School -- due to active evacuations, road closures and poor air quality, district officials announced on Facebook.

Several lanes on the eastbound Riverside Freeway at Coal Canyon Road were initially closed to make room for firefighting equipment, backing up traffic for miles, the California Highway Patrol reported.

For many commuting from the Inland Empire to Orange County, the Riverside Freeway is the only access point, said CHP Officer Florentino Olivera. "But we're asking the public, if possible, to avoid the eastbound 91." 

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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