Wildfire in Norco burns 175 acres, triggering evacuations and threatening 500 homes

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A quickly moving wildfire burned 175 acres in Norco Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of 1,500 residents and threatening an estimated 500 homes, according to Cal Fire.

The Mann Fire was first reported at 9:41 a.m. in the Santa Ana River Bottom near California Avenue, authorities said. It remained 0% contained as it exploded by 100 acres within about an hour.

At 3:30 p.m., Cal Fire said it was 20% contained and its forward spread had stopped. However, the evacuation orders issued hours earlier remained in place.

Evacuation orders were lifted or downgraded at 7 p.m.

Evacuation orders west of California Avenue and north of 8th Street were lifted entirely, while those north of North Drive and east of California Avenue were downgraded to evacuation warnings, according to Caltrans.

The evacuation warnings were expected to remain in effect through the night, officials added.

Officials said the wildfire left minor damage to fencing and outbuildings on five properties.

Cal Fire Capt. Fernando Herrera described it as wind-driven and told KTLA it was burning at a rapid rate of spread earlier in the day. He said of the roughly 1,500 residents affected, at least two people have been treated for smoke inhalation.

Sky5 was overhead as a dense fog of smoke floated through a neighborhood, surrounding homes as it blew in from the site of the wildfire.

Billows of dense smoke rise from the Mann Fire in Norco after it burned through more than 100 acres on March 3, 2020. (KTLA)
Billows of dense smoke rise from the Mann Fire in Norco after it burned through more than 100 acres on March 3, 2020. (KTLA)

The National Weather Service reported just before 11:30 a.m. that winds in the area were gusting at 15-25 mph, with humidity at 10-15%.

But Herrera said winds became lighter as the afternoon wore on.

Around 1 p.m., he told KTLA they appeared to be blowing 5-10 mph after being much stronger when the fire broke out before 10 a.m. — he estimated they were about 30-40 mph at that time, driving the flames forward.

“The forward spread of the fire is starting to slow down,” Herrera said. “We’re actually doing fairly good … but at any given time, as you know, anything can happen.”

Earlier, Sky5 captured students filing into buses parked outside Riverview Elementary School. The school sent an email to parents stating the campus was being evacuated as a “precaution.”

The email said the children were being taken to Norco High School, where parents must bring identification to pick them up. School officials said the campus was the only one affected.

Cal Fire Riverside said earlier that mandatory evacuation orders were in place for those who live north of North Drive from Crest View to California Avenue, north of 8th Street, east of Pedley Avenue and south of the river bottom.

According to Herrera, the roughly 210 firefighters battling the blaze were focusing their efforts on protecting homes in densely populated neighborhoods located north of the river bottom.

Authorities opened an evacuation center at Corona High School, located at 1150 West 10th Street, and at Jurupa Valley High School at 10551 Bellgrave Avenue. Large animals being evacuated can be taken to George Ingalls Park at 3737 Crestview Drive in Norco.

Police said at 12:40 p.m. that eastbound Arlington Avenue at Crestview Drive was being is closed due to the fire.

The National Weather Service noted the wildfire can serve as an indication of just “how dry it is getting” in Southern California, “without significant rainfall in the past two months.”

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