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Murrieta Firefighters Join Crews Battling Summit Fire in Banning

Smoke was drifting over southwest Riverside County from the wildfire that was reported at about 12:40 p.m. Wednesday in Banning.

Updated at 9:10 p.m.:

Crews from the Murrieta Fire Department were among 425 firefighters battling a Banning brush fire that had grown to 2,956 acres and was 35 percent contained as of 8:50 p.m. Wednesday, according to officials.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries.

Smoke drifted over southwest Riverside County from the wildfire that was reported at about 12:40 p.m. Wednesday. The origin was at North San Gorgonio Avenue and Summit Drive in Banning, according to Jody Hagemann of CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department.

Driven by wind and dry conditions, the fire raced across roughly 2,956 acres in Banning, torching at least one structure and forcing some residents to evacuate the area.

It spread quickly through medium brush and burned at least one home, forcing the closure of many local thoroughfares. 

Mias Canyon Road was re-opened as of an 8:50 p.m. updated, but Bluff Road remained closed.

"Motorists should drive with caution due to fire equipment working in the area and also obey road closure signs and barricades," Hagemann stated.

All evacuation orders had been lifted as of 8:50 p.m.

Previously,residents on Indian School Lane and the north end of Eighth Street were evacuated, Hagemann said. Wilson Street was closed between San Gorgonio and Highland Springs Avenue.   

Residents of Highland Springs Mobile Home Park were evacuated just before 6 p.m.

An evacuation center was set up at the Banning Community Services Center, 789 N. San Gorgonio Ave.   

Crews from Murrieta and Pechanga fire departments joined more than 400 firefighters from across the county, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the U.S. Forest Service, along with six tanker aircraft, in the firefighting effort, according to Hagemann.   

Winds were blowing at nearly 30 mph.   

The Riverside County Animal Services Department sent personnel to the fire command post and had an emergency rescue unit on standby, spokesman John Welsh said.

An evacuation center for small animals affected by the fire has opened at San Jacinto Valley Animal Services, 581 S. Grand Ave. in San Jacinto, and a center for large animals has been opened at Noble Creek Park, 390 Oak Valley Parkway in Beaumont.

Riverside County health officials are warning residents—particularly those in the San Gorgonio Pass area—the wildfire could have an impact on their health through the smoke and soot the flames are generating.

Wildfire smoke, which is a mixture of small particles, gases and water vapor, is covering portions of the Pass area and could cause residents health problems ranging from burning eyes, runny nose, shortness of breath, scratchy throat, headaches, chest pains and a variety of illnesses. The smoke can also worsen chronic heart and lung disease.

“The health issues raised by the wildfire stretch beyond the areas where the flames are burning,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, public health officer for Riverside County. “It is important that residents recognize the smoke presents a health hazard.”

According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, other surrounding areas of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties may reach the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups level, or higher, depending on fire conditions and wind flows.

—City News Service and Maggie Avants contributed to this report.

Visit Banning-Beaumont Patch for updates on the fire situation.

Scott Tucker May 01, 2013 at 11:20 PM
Incident Command just advised Cal Fire Perris that the potential is now 4,000 acres.

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