Ortega Highway near Lake Elsinore was reopened Thursday morning after a brush fire prompted its overnight closure, causing headaches for many residents in the area.
Authorities were investigating the cause of the 5-acre blaze, now 80 percent contained, that started at about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night, the same time a man crashed his car in the area.
The Macy Fire drew a strong and swift response from firefighters. Crews on the ground hustled to protect nearby homes while aircrafts swept in from the skies to to contain the burning blaze in the dry brush area.
Commuters relied on patience Thursday morning as California Highway Patrol officials escorted them in a single lane, up and down the mountainside.
Top news of the day
Vince Tavis, who lives in the area, said it was "tough on people commuting and people who live there."
He works at a school along the affected portion of the highway and said some kids trudged up the hillside through the desert to get to school instead of being dropped off by a car.
Speculation surrounded the cause of the fire with many witnesses claiming the driver of the crashed vehicle told them he crashed it on purpose.
"We called the cops and got the cops there and were talking with him about his entire story, how he crashed the car and it was all on purpose," Dylan Pierce said.
The driver was found in a nearby neighborhood with burns covering parts of his body, his passenger was found near the wreckage. Both were taken to the hospital with moderate injuries.
Firefighters with the Riverside County Fire Department planned to spend the rest of the day in the area, monitoring hot spots and keeping the fire under control if not putting it out completely.