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Category: Wildfires

Full containment of Riverside County fire expected tonight

Fire officials have made significant progress in suppressing a 300-acre wildfire near Jurupa Hills and full containment was expected by 8 p.m. Saturday, authorities said.

The fire that ignited Thursday along the vegetated Santa Ana River bottom between Riverside and an unincorporated part of Riverside County was now 80% contained and the area burned was not expected to increase, said Jody Hagemann, a spokeswoman for the Riverside County Fire Department.

Hagemann said a team of six engines, two fire crews and two water tenders would continue to “work on some hot spots” amid temperatures forecast to rise into the 80s.

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Riverside County fire 40% contained, 2 structures damaged

Firefighters faced hot, windy conditions Friday as they worked to contain a fire burning in Riverside County that has damaged one home and one other structure.

The fire near in Jurupa Hills spans 311 acres, Riverside County Fire Department officials said. Crews had the flames 40% contained Friday afternoon.

A house near the Santa Ana River bottom, where the fire is still smoldering, caught fire when sparks jumped from the river and landed on the roof, officials said. An outbuilding not connected to the house also caught fire.

The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for Riverside County on Friday morning, warning that firefighters and residents could experience winds between 15 and 25 mph and gusts as strong as 45 mph.

“As long as the weather holds out, we’re good,”said Greg Birchfield, a Fire Department spokesman. “But if it gets windy, it can really take off.”

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Residents watch Riverside County fire burn close to their homes

Firefighters beat back flames in Riverside County brush fire

As a brush fire fueled by thick vegetation singed the backyards of homes in Riverside on Thursday night, some residents ignored voluntary evacuation orders and stood their ground as fire crews battled the blaze.

The fire had burned 150 to 175 acres and was about 20% contained. Firefighters hoped to take advantage of calm winds and cooler temperatures. 

Power lines were down, but it was unclear whether they had sparked the blaze. About 1,800 residents were without power, fire officials said Thursday night.

On a cul-de-sac along the river bottom, resident Jack Dalman, 84, and his wife watched flames blaze through the brush and singe the palm trees in their backyard. Their 29-year-old grandson John Dalman pulled a garden hose down to the riverbed and stood side by side with firefighters as they sprayed water onto the oncoming flames.

Jack Dalman was in a neighborhood under an evacuation order, but the retired Riverside County Sheriff’s deputy wasn’t leaving.

“We’ve been through this before,” said Dalman, who patrolled his back yard in short pants and sandals. “I don’t worry.”

Jim Ingraham, 77, saw a bank of palm trees explode into a bright orange ball of flames. But he said he wasn’t alarmed as he watched a bulldozer cut a fire line along the perimeter of the blaze.

“This is an annual thing,” said Ingraham, who also refused to evacuate.

The blaze quickly spread after breaking out Thursday afternoon along the Santa Ana River bottom between Riverside and an unincorporated part of the county, fire officials said. Flames up to 30 feet high consumed palm trees and thick patches of brush along a jagged half-mile front as firefighters sprayed water on rooftops and as residents with garden hoses doused embers in their yards. A thick plume of smoke was visible for miles.

About 200 firefighters, aided by a water-dropping helicopter, battled the blaze into the night as residents in several Riverside neighborhoods were advised to leave. Earlier in the day, the temperature at the nearby Riverside Municipal Airport hit 80 degrees and light Santa Ana winds fanned the flames.

By Thursday night, the winds were calm. Fire officials said that was providing ground crews an opportunity to beat back flames that had come perilously close to homes.

“Once the winds calm down, it allows us to get in there and do an aggressive attack,” Capt. Lucas Spellman of the Riverside County Fire Department said.

As fire crews swarmed hot spots, a mobile home about a quarter of a mile from the brush fire began burning and ignited a propane tank, which exploded into flames. Fire officials were investigating whether that blaze was ignited by embers from the brush fire.

Fire officials said crews would continue to douse hot spots through the night.

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Photo: Firefighters battle the flames Thursday night. Credit: Terry Pierson / Press-Enterprise

Evacuations ordered as Riverside County brush fire grows

A brush fire grows in Riverside County.

Some residents near a brush fire in Riverside County were being evacuated Thursday night as flames burned close to homes and had consumed up to 75 acres, officials said.

The fire was burning in Jurupa Valley in heavy brush straddling unincorporated county area and the city of Riverside. Evacuations were ordered for residents living on Greenbrier Drive and Rio Rancho Way in Riverside, fire officials said. 

It was unclear how many residents were affected by the order. 

About 200 firefighters were battling the blaze, which broke out about 4:30 p.m. and quickly grew from an initial 10 acres amid unseasonable warm weather and dry winds, the Riverside County Fire Department said.

Crews on the ground were being assisted by at least one water-dropping helicopter, the Riverside County Fire Department said. The blaze was about 20% contained.

Power lines were down in the area, but it was not clear whether downed lines sparked the fire.

Television footage showed flames burning in the darkness as they consumed palm trees. A thick plume of smoke was visible for miles. 

The fire broke out as a Santa Ana wind condition warmed up Southern California. Temperatures in Riverside County were in the low 80s Thursday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. 

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Photo: Brush fire burns in Riverside County. Credit: KTLA-TV Channel 5

Brush fire grows to 50 acres in Riverside County

Brush fire had burned about 50 acres in Riverside County

A brush fire in Riverside County quickly spread to about 50 acres Thursday evening and was burning near a residential development.

About 150 firefighters were trying to stop the progress of the flames burning across heavy brush near the south end of the Jurupa Valley regional park, northwest of the Riverside Airport, fire officials said.

Crews on the ground were being assisted a by a water-dropping helicopter, the Riverside County Fire Department said.

Power lines were down in the area, but it was not clear whether downed lines sparked the blaze, which broke out about 4:30 p.m. The blaze, initially reported to be about 10 acres, spread quickly across the brush. 

Television footage showed flames burning in the darkness and consuming palm trees. A thick plume of smoke rose from the scene. 

The blaze broke out as a Santa Ana wind condition warmed up Southern California. Temperatures in Riverside County were in the low 80s Thursday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

Here are some images of the fire aggregated from social media:

 

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Photo: Flames burning in Riverside County. Credit: KTLA-TV Channel 5

Firefighters battle brush fire in Riverside County

Firefighters in Riverside County were battling a brush fire Thursday afternoon that had scorched about 10 acres of heavy brush, officials said.

About 80 firefighters, aided by a water-dropping helicopter, were fighting the blaze that was burning near Rio Road and Calle Hermosa on the south end of Rancho Jurupa Park, fire officials said.

Power lines were down in the area, the Riverside County Fire Department said. The blaze was reported about 4:30 p.m.

The flames did not appear to be threatening structures, the agency said. No other details were immediately available.

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Las Vegas Strip shooting suspect is a pimp, sources say

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-- Robert J. Lopez

twitter.com/LAJourno

Hollywood Hills brush fire that threatened homes is extinguished

Los Angeles firefighters put out a brush fire that for a time threatened homes Thursday along the Cahuenga Pass.

The fire broke out around 2:30 p.m. near Universal City off the 101 Freeway. Firefighters declared it knocked down just before 4 p.m. No injuries were reported and no structures were damaged.

The flames came close to some homes, but firefighters extinguished them quickly.

The cause of the fire was unknown. The incident slowed traffic on the 101 Freeway.

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Brush fire fanned by gusty winds burns 400 acres by Lone Pine

Location where brush fire had burned 400 acres near Lone Pine
A brush fire fanned by gusty winds scorched 400 acres in Inyo County but firefighters appeared to be gaining the upper hand in stopping the blaze, officials said Wednesday night.

The blaze, called the River fire, broke out Wednesday morning and spread across thick brush near Narrow Gauge Road and California 136 east of Lone Pine, fire officials said.

Nearly 200 firefighters were battling the fire, which was 85% contained Wednesday evening, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

The fire was burning as a Santa Ana wind condition helped cause warm weather across Southern California, the National Weather Service said. The weather was expected to stay warm through Saturday.

The agency said that northeast wind gusts up to 35 mph were expected in mountain canyons and passes.

“Gusty winds and thick bush are posing a challenge toward containment for firefighters,” fire officials said in a statement. Full containment was expected Thursday.

The cause of the blaze was under investigation.

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twitter.com/LAJourno

Map shows location of the fire. Credit: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

Families react to death penalty in forest fire arson case

Rickieleefowler
The children of a victim of the 2003 Old Fire in San Bernardino County told the judge who sentenced the convicted arsonist to death Monday that the defendant's actions had destroyed their lives.

“It’s still very hard for me to think about the week that turned my world upside down,” said Ashley Taylor, who was 15 when her father, Robert Taylor, died of a heart attack after evacuating during the fire. “I still feel the pain every day."

Rickie Lee Fowler was sentenced to death Monday for setting the blaze at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains in September 2003.

“Rickie Fowler should be put to death," Superior Court Judge Michael A. Smith said inside the San Bernardino courtroom, adding that the evidence of Fowler’s guilt and life of violence were overwhelming.

With his eyes fixed on the judge, Fowler showed no response as the sentence was read in open court. He sat alone in the jury box wearing a forest green jail jumpsuit, clutching a piece of paper.

After the hearings, Fowler’s attorney, Don Jordan, said his client was made a “scapegoat” by the district attorney’s office and law enforcement agencies, which were under immense pressure to solve the arson.

The death sentence will automatically be appealed to the California Supreme Court.

Jordan, in an hour-long statement before the sentencing, said evidence has surfaced indicating that Fowler was at a friend’s house when the Old Fire broke out.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Bullock, who prosecuted the case, said after the sentencing, “The evidence in the case is overwhelming. Thankfully for the victim and the community, there’s finally a conclusion.’’

After the hearing, the son of Robert Taylor said the death sentence offered some justice for his family and the thousands who suffered because of the devastating wildfire. “I’m glad he’s going to death row,’’ said Jesse Taylor. “He’s hurt a lot of people over the years. Not just my father."

The prosecutor said Fowler deliberately set the blaze in Waterman Canyon in a fit of rage against his godfather, who had kicked Fowler out of his house at the top of the canyon.

The fire broke out Oct. 25, 2003, at Old Waterman Canyon Road and California State Highway 18. Flames raced through the forest and brush, forcing the evacuation of more than 30 communities and 80,000 people. Six men died of heart attacks, although prosecutors said one could not be directly attributed to stress from the fire.

A few months later, on Christmas Day, a huge debris flow caused by rain on the denuded slopes of the burn area swept through a church camp in Waterman Canyon, killing 14 people. Fowler was not charged in that incident.

Investigators said they questioned Fowler shortly after the fire but did not have enough evidence to arrest him. Another suspect, Martin Valdez, 24, was fatally shot in Muscoy, near San Bernardino, in 2006. At the time of the fire, witnesses reported seeing Fowler and Valdez in a white van throwing a flaming object into Waterman Canyon.

Much of the prosecution's case hinged on comments Fowler made in 2008 in which he acknowledged to investigators that he was attempting to burn down the home of a friend, but denied that he was the one who set the blaze. Fowler told investigators that he went to the back of the van and took out a flare, but that Valdez grabbed the flare and tossed it.

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Photo: Rickie Lee Fowler in court in 2012. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Red flag warning issued for brush fire danger in L.A. area

Critical fire weather predicted
The National Weather Service is predicting critical brush fire conditions Tuesday that will be caused by dry off-shore winds.

Mountain areas in Los Angeles and Ventura counties will experience relative humidity as low as 5% and northeast winds gusting up to 45 mph, the Weather Service said. Temperatures are expected to be above normal.

“The combination of these winds and very dry air and fuel conditions will result in critical fire weather conditions,” the agency said in a statement.

Red flag fire warnings were declared for parts of the Angeles National Forest and Santa Monica Mountains.

The dry winds are the result of high pressure over the Great Basin. The Weather Service said above-normal temperatures were expected to last through Wednesday before cooler weather hits the region.

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Photo: Critical fire weather expected. Credit: National Weather Service
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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