BANNING, Calif. (KTLA) — Firefighters on Friday continued to battle a wind-fueled brush fire near Banning, which has forced thousands to evacuate and destroyed dozens of homes.
The so-called Silver Fire had burned 18,000 acres and was 40 percent contained as of Friday evening.
The Silver Fire has destroyed more than two dozen structures near Banning.
The blaze has destroyed 27 structures, including 26 residences and one commercial building, according to an update from Cal Fire.
There have been five injuries reported, including four firefighters and one civilian.
Mandatory evacuations were lifted Friday for Snow Creek Village, Cabazon, Mt. Edna and Poppet Flats.
Evacuations remained in place for the communities of Vista Grande, Twin Pines and Silent Valley.
Black Mountain and Boulder Basin Campgrounds as well as Black Mountain Fire lookout were closed by the U.S. Forest Service.
Highway 243 remained closed between Banning and Poppet Flats.
The fire broke out around 2 p.m. on Wednesday in the area of Poppet Flats Road near Highway 243, south of Banning.
The fast-moving blaze burned through nine miles in less than 24 hours.
High temperatures, low relative humidity and strong winds were fueling the blaze.
Fire crews were also dealing with dense, dry brush and steep, rugged terrain.
More than 1,600 firefighters were assigned to the fire on Friday, along with 139 engines, eight helicopters and 16 dozers, according to Cal Fire.
The fire continued to burn actively overnight, fire officials said. It was moving east into the Cabazon area, fanned by gusty winds out of the west.
Sustained west winds were blowing at about 30 mph on Friday morning.
“We can barely stand down here. You can imagine on the side of that hill with the rocks and terrain how hard it would be to put in hose or cut lines with hand tools,” Cal Fire Capt. Lucas Spellman said.
Officials expected a shift in the direction of the wind as the onshore flow dissipates on Saturday, which could impact the behavior of the fire.
In Snow Creek Village, many residents said they were staying put, despite the mandatory evacuation orders.
Resident Donald Tosseau spent the day on Thursday hosing down his roof and clearing brush, preparing for the approaching flames.
He said he was worried about the embers and about his neighbors’ home.
“The house is like a kindling, and if it goes, mine will go as well,” Tosseau said.
He lived through the deadly Esperanza Fire in 2006, and said the flames did not come as close to homes in the area back then.
There was no immediate word on a possible cause of the fire.
An evacuation center was set up at Hemet High School, located at 41701 East Stetson Ave.
A second evacuation center was open at Beaumont High School at 39139 Cherry Valley Blvd.
Animals were being accepted at the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus, located at 581 S. Grand Ave. in San Jacinto.
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