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Firefighters battle Riverside blaze before winds kick up

March 1, 2013 |  9:57 am

A wildfire that destroyed more than 200 acres of palm trees and brush remained 30% contained Friday as firefighters battled to surround it before winds picked up.

The National Weather Service imposed a wind advisory in Riverside and San Diego counties early Friday morning, and meteorologists warned that residents could see gusts as strong as 35 mph until 4 p.m. Firefighting crews had hoped that calmer winds would allow them to attack the blaze overnight.

About 200 firefighters worked through the night to contain the blaze, which came dangerously close to homes, officials said. Crews were assisted by a water-dropping helicopter and 24 engine companies.

Authorities lifted voluntary evacuation orders for residents living on Greenbrier Drive and Grassy Trail in the city of Riverside.

The fire began along the Santa Ana River bottom between Riverside and an unincorporated part of the county about 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, officials said. Flames as high as 30 feet quickly spread through the south end of the Rancho Jurupa Regional Park, northwest of Riverside Municipal Airport.

Power was restored to Riverside residents who had lost service Thursday. Officials reported that power lines were down Thursday, but it was unclear whether those lines had caused the fire.

Earlier Thursday, the temperature at the nearby Riverside airport hit an unseasonable 80 degrees and light Santa Ana winds fanned the flames. Friday's high is expected to be around 84 degrees, the weather service said.

On Thursday, a backyard trailer went up in flames about a quarter-mile from the fire lines in a neighborhood where embers were flying. No injuries were reported.


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-- Laura J. Nelson