Westward Fire: 160-acre blaze breaks out behind Banning High School, forcing evacuation

Local news

Students and campers were evacuated after a wildfire erupted behind Banning High School Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

Dubbed the Westward Fire, the flames were reported around 2:15 p.m. in the 100 block of West Westward Avenue in Banning, Riverside County fire officials said.

The blaze covered 160 acres and was 10% contained as of about 8 p.m. Earlier, firefighters had estimated the fire at 200 acres.

Banning High School and the Banning Stagecoach KOA campground just to the south have been evacuated.

An evacuation warning had been in place for an area east of the high school, but was later lifted around 5:40 p.m.

Highway 243 was closed in both directions between Twin Pines Road and Old Banning/Idyllwild Road, while West Westward Drive was closed from 12th Street to San Gorgonio, firefighters said.

A care and reception center was set up at the Albert A. Chatigny Senior Community Center in Beaumont at 1310 Oak Valley Parkway.

Crews were battling the blaze both on the ground and in the air, with three air tankers on scene. One firefighter suffered a minor injury and was hospitalized, authorities said.

The Westward Fire is one of two wildfires to break out and force evacuations in the Inland Empire amid spiking temperatures Wednesday afternoon.

The South Fire quickly spread to 500 acres and consumed structures after sparking shortly before 2 p.m. in the Lytle Creek area just north of Fontana. Around 1,000 people were evacuated.

The Westward Fire is burning in an area covered by an excessive heat warning through 9 p.m. Sunday, while a heat advisory is set to take effect in the area of the South Fire Thursday.

In the Banning area, temperatures are expected to be dangerously hot with temperatures up to 110 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

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