A fire had erupted in downtown Riverside Wednesday amid some of the fiercest winds the region had seen, with gusts up to 70 mph, as taxed fire crews were already battling several blazes.
Though flames of the Dexter Fire had burned just a few acres initially, about 100 homes were initially threatened near Indian Hill Road and Ladera Lane, Riverside Fire Department officials said.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered in the following areas:
- Indian Hill Road
- Ladera Lane
- Beacon Way
- Lake Hill Place
- Neighborhood adjacent to Loring Park
The 30-acre blaze was reported around noon Wednesday in the Santa Ana river bottom. It was still 50% contained by 5:30 p.m.
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No homes had yet burned, but flying embers ignited palm trees and patio furniture. Helicopters could be seen making water and retardant drops on the roofs of homes adjacent to the blaze.
Fire officials said the area is a wind-prone region, currently experiencing high winds.
It wasn't immediately clear what ignited the blaze.
An evacuation center was opened at Dales Community Center, located at 3936 Chestnut St, Riverside.
The 200-acre Hill Fire was burning less than 10 miles away in Jurupa Valley.
The Indian Fire was one of several wildfires burning in Southern California Wednesday amid some of the strongest Santa Ana winds in a decade. Click here for full coverage of brush fires across the state.
The strongest Santa Ana winds of the season, possibly in the last decade, thrashed the region Wednesday. The winds, produced by surface high pressure over the Great Basin squeezing air down through canyons and passes in Southern California's mountain ranges, are common in the fall and have a long history of fanning destructive wildfires in the region.
Fall is historically one of the most dangerous times of the year for wildfires in California. Seven of the state's 10-most destructive wildfires occurred in October — many fueled by monster winds, including Santa Ana gusts.
Through Oct. 27, more than 5,000 wildfires have been reported in California, according to CALFIRE figures. The fires have burned more than 74,000 acres.
About the same number of fires burned at the same time last year, but burned acreage was at an astounding 632,000 due to some of the worst wildfires in state history.
California's five-year average for the same period is 6,190 fires and 198,300 acres.