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Crews Battle Fast-Moving, 1,350-Acre Brush Fire in Riverside

Firefighters were attempting to contain a brush fire in Riverside on Sunday, officials said.

The flames were reported around 3:40 p.m. near the Opera Loop off East Palmyrita Avenue in the Highgrove area near Box Springs Mountain Reserve Park, according to a statement from the Riverside County Fire Department.

It was being called the Opera Fire.

By 9:50 p.m. the fire covered 1,350 acres and was 25 percent contained. About 40 homes were threatened but no evacuations had been ordered, the agency said.

Crews were battling a 300-acre brush fire in Riverside on April 30, 2017. (Credit: Riverside County Fire Department / Twitter)

The blaze grew from about 300 acres in size at 6 p.m., firefighters said, and flames were burning in light fuels at a rapid rate of speed.

Drones that were being flown in the area grounded air operations for a time, officials said.

About 150 firefighters were on scene Sunday evening with three helicopters and 55 engine companies, among other equipment, according to Riverside fire Capt. Lucas Spelman.

“We had some good winds this afternoon, and obviously with the sun going down we had a reversal of winds," he said. "That has helped us be able to battle those flames and knock them down right now. We hope to have them out by this evening sometime."

Depending on wind, the fire could head toward Moreno Valley if not contained, Spelman said.

Investigators had not determined a cause but were interviewing a witness who saw the fire break out, according to Spelman.

Riverside resident Freddrick Knox said he had come to the area to hike but the plan was thwarted after flames erupted near his car.

Knox was parking his car when he noticed flames underneath it, he said.

“I guess I got in the grass just a little bit and all of a sudden, I see fire," Knox said. "I tried to put it out and I looked under my car — my car was on fire. That’s when my leg caught on fire. I used my coat to try and put it out. After a minute I couldn’t do anything so I just got out of the way."

A young man who was also in the area called 911, Knox said.

Firefighters were able to extinguish the flames on Knox's car before it was destroyed, but he said it was still a depressing scene.

“I’ve lived in Riverside since 1969. It makes me really sad to see this," he said. "I’ve seen this on TV before but I never thought I’d be part of — the cause of it.”

Crews were also working to extinguish a separate fire reported at 6:28 p.m. about 20 miles southwest in Temescal Valley.

It was dubbed the Jameson Fire due to its location near the 23200 block of Jameson Road. As of 10:50 p.m. flames covered about 15 acres and were 25 percent contained but had slowed their forward rate of spread, according to a release from Riverside County firefighters.