Authorities ordered more evacuations Thursday on the front lines of the deadly Fairview Fire southeast of Hemet, now close to 19,000 acres.
But they also reported a silver lining – flames are expanding at a slower rate and containment is possible by early next week.
At 1 p.m. Thursday, Cal Fire announced that the area east of De Portola Road, west of Sage Road, north of East Benton Road and south of Diamond Valley Road must be evacuated.
Around the same time, a new evacuation warning was posted south of Rawson Road, east of Washington Street and Anza Road, west of Highway 74 and north of Highways 79 and 371 Cal Fire advised residents in those areas to be prepared to leave should conditions change for the worse.
Mandatory evacuations remained in place for many residents, including those south of Cactus Valley Road, north of Minto Way, north of Red Mountain Road, west of the U.S. Forest Service boundary and east of Sage, west of Wilson Way, south of Highway 74, east of Fairview Avenue, north of Stetson Avenue, south of Red Mountain, west and north of Stanley Road, and east of Sage.
The initial evacuations involved 1,500 homes.
OnScene.TV reported that wind-driven flames hit the Bautista Canyon area hard in the early afternoon Thursday, burning around the Bautista Conservation Camp, a training ground for inmates who serve as firefighters.
Meanwhile, Highway 74 in the San Bernardino National Forest was fully closed between Mountain Center and Borco Street in Valle Vista.
The blaze was estimated at 18,657 acres Thursday morning, with 5% containment, a figure that hasn’t changed since Monday.
Officials said late Wednesday that the goal is to have containment lines completely set by Monday.
The weather might affect the effort. Hurricane Kay, churning off of the Baja Mexico, peninsula was expected to come within 150 miles of Southern California by the weekend.
The cyclonic activity was destabilizing the regional climate, with scattered thunderstorms erupting Thursday morning north of the wildfire.
Forecasters predicted widespread thunderstorm cells, as well as high winds, in and around the fire zone Saturday.
The Fairview Fire was reported shortly after 2 p.m. Monday on Fairview Avenue and Bautista Road, and it spread rapidly.
Cal Fire Battalion Chief Josh Janssen said firefighters were strategically dispersed Wednesday, following a day that saw the flames “outpace our efforts.”
Cal Fire established unified command with the USFS, and Janssen expressed hope Wednesday the realignment would allow crews to get a better handle on the fire.
The Riverside County Emergency Management Department declared a local emergency Wednesday due to the fire, enabling the county to apply for federal and state relief. The Board of Supervisors is slated to formally approve the proclamation during its meeting Tuesday.
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency covering the fire zone earlier this week.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District extended smoke advisories to 5 p.m. Thursday because of the layers emanating from the Fairview Fire. The agency advised people in sensitive health to take precautions wherever drift smoke or ash is present.
Multiple Cal Fire air tankers and water-dropping helicopters were making runs. A temporary flight restriction was established directly over the fire, barring civilian aircraft from coming within a 15-mile ring, from Hemet to Lake Hemet, well inside the San Bernardino National Forest.
Officials said the fire overcame a fleeing family, killing two and severely injuring another.
Sheriff’s officials confirmed Wednesday the two deceased victims were found inside a vehicle in the 42400 block of Avery Canyon Road in East Hemet Monday, apparently overcome by the flames while trying to leave.
The two victims have not been formally identified by authorities, but friends identified them to reporters as Ian Compton, 40, and his autistic daughter, Mikayla Porter, 27. Friends said their family pets also died. Compton’s wife, Tina, severely burned, remains hospitalized.
A sheriff’s official said Wednesday the woman, who was found outside the vehicle on Avery Canyon Road, is expected to survive. A GoFundMe page established on behalf of the Compton family had raised nearly $17,000 as of Thursday evening.
Friends said the Comptons also lost their home.
The cause of the fire was under investigation. In a document filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, Southern California Edison reported “circuit activity” in the area close to the time the fire erupted.