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Largest of Riverside County brush fires is 50% contained; 2 other fires are fully contained

July 17, 2010 | 12:43 pm

Riverside County firefighters were working Saturday to contain the Cactus blaze in an unincorporated area of the county east of Murrieta. Six air tankers and 21 engines were assigned to beat back the blaze, which was among a string of brush fires that broke out as thunderstorms rolled across the region Thursday afternoon.

Though temperatures are expected to hit triple digits in the Inland Empire on Saturday, officials said winds were calm and that the 647-acre fire was 50% contained. Firefighters hope to fully contain the blaze near Red Mountain Road and Owl Creek within the next few days.

Two other vegetation fires that began just before 4 p.m. Thursday were fully contained Saturday morning. The Skinner fire, which was sparked by lightening, chewed through 503 acres near the intersection of Crown Valley Road and De Portola Road in Temecula.

The Saddle fire burned 80 acres near Oak Glen Road and Red Mountain Road south of Hemet, but was contained Friday afternoon. Officials initially ordered mandatory evacuations in the area near the fire, which destroyed a metal shed, but the orders were lifted that evening.

Fire officials said Thursday afternoon's thunderstorms -- which caused lightening, hail and rain that hit west of the San Jacinto Mountains -- sparked more than a half-dozen fires in Riverside and San Diego counties.

Among them was the Don Juan fire near Lake Elsinore, which burned a travel trailer. Three Riverside Sheriff’s Deputies were treated for smoke inhalation injures after rescuing a woman from the trailer.

-- Maeve Reston