The Fairview Fire burning in Hemet grew to roughly 4,000 acres Tuesday with just 5% containment as firefighters struggled to contain the blaze that has already claimed two lives and destroyed several homes.
“The fire activity has been very unpredictable,” Cal Fire spokesperson Rob Roseen said at the scene Tuesday morning.
The brush fire broke out around 2 p.m. Monday and spread rapidly on the outskirts of Hemet in Riverside County.
Two people were killed and another was injured as they were attempting to flee, Cal Fire Chief Josh Janssen said during a morning news conference.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the deaths. It’s unclear at this time if the people were related or from the same household.
Janssen did not have an update on how many structures were damaged or destroyed in the fire but Cal Fire tweeted that seven structures had been destroyed as of Monday night.
Sky5 video showed several charred homes on the now-barren mountains east of State Street and south of Stetson Avenue.
Firefighting crews were not only contending with challenging terrain, smoke and flames from the fire but also triple-digit temperatures. The high reached 105 degrees in Hemet Monday afternoon and a prolonged heat wave was likely to keep temperatures near that number again Tuesday.
Mandatory evacuations remained in place for approximately 3,400 homes areas south of Stetson Avenue, north of Cactus Valley Road, west of Bautista Canyon and east of State Street.
An evacuation center was established at Tahquitz High School located at 4425 Titan Trail in Hemet. Small animals could be brought to that location, Riverside County Emergency Management Department spokesperson Shane Reichardt said.
The Hemet Unified School District announced that all schools would remain closed Tuesday. The District will provide updates on the closure to students and families, Reichardt said.
Officials from the Eastern Municipal Water District, which services the area, said about 50 customers were under a boil water warning because of the fire. The warning was issued due to loss of power which affected the pressure in one of the district’s water tanks.
Residents should already have been contacted regarding the warning, which could remain in place for at least 48 hours while workers get the system back to full operation and complete water quality testing.
For a map of affected homes and information about disinfecting your tap water, click here.