A community in California’s San Jacinto Mountains was evacuated in darkness after a wildfire broke out in dry, windy conditions early Friday morning.
The Bonita Fire was reported at about 1:15 a.m. PST, according the Riverside County Fire Department. Trees and vegetation were burning in the community of Mountain Center.
By 3:20 a.m., the fire had grown to about 200 acres and residents in Mountain Center were told to leave their homes immediately.
Alert RivCo: #Bonitafire — Evacuation Order for residents of Mountain Center. Evacuate NOW using Hwy243 towards Banning and Hwy 74 towards the Desert. Follow @CALFIRERRU for updates. @SanBernardinoNF @RSO pic.twitter.com/97VwQ9LFKx— RivCoReady (@RivCoReady) January 15, 2021
An evacuation center was set up in the nearby town of Banning and a shelter for animals was opened in San Jacinto.
Early-morning response from @helpinRIVcoPETS officers for #BonitaFire; please follow @CALFIRERRU for official updates. Large & small animals can be brought to our shelter in San Jacinto. @RivCoReady @RivCoNow pic.twitter.com/OXHGOkZLTH— RivCO animalSERVICES (@helpinRIVcoPETS) January 15, 2021
More than 260 ground and air firefighters were assigned to the blaze.
The latest update from the fire department, posted at 6:35 a.m., said the fire had expanded in size to 600 acres, or nearly 1 square mile, and was 5% contained.
Warm, dry, windy conditions are fueling the fire. The region is under a red flag warning until 4 p.m. today. Santa Ana winds are expected to gust up to 40 mph and temperatures are about 20 degrees above average.
Portions of at least three local roadways were closed: Highway 74 at Morris Ranch Rd., Highway 74 at Strawberry Creek and Highway 243 at Saunders Meadow.
Earlier on Thursday evening, evacuation orders were issued in part of Thousand Oaks in Ventura County, where the Erbes Fire burned about 250 acres.
The blaze started about 5 p.m. but was brought under control and residents were allowed to return home.
#ErbesFire A few photos from tonight's fire in Thousand Oaks. The fire remains contained at about 250 acres with forward progress stopped. The call came in at 4:52pm and was quickly upgraded to a 2nd alarm. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/bBT8y1tjqG— Michael Coons (@Michael_Coons) January 15, 2021
California suffered a brutal string of record-breaking wildfires in 2020, most of them in the last summer and early fall. In all, more than 4.2 million acres of land – or about 6,600 square miles – was scorched, destroying more than 10,000 homes and other buildings. Thirty-three people were killed.
When does the California wildfire season end?
The California wildfire season has actually no ending. According to a 2015 study, California has two distinct fire seasons.
- The first one runs from June through September and is driven by a combination of warmer and drier weather. It is the Western fire season that most people think of. Those wildfires tend to be more inland, in higher-elevation forests.
- The second fire season runs from October through April and is driven by the Santa Ana winds. Those fires tend to spread three times faster and burn closer to urban areas, and they are responsible for 80 percent of the economic losses over two decades beginning in 1990.
So if you live in California, you actually have no rest… It’s a burning hell! More wildfire news on