Residents told to flee as flames spread
■ Chronicle News Staff
Fire broke out in the San Jacinto Mountains near Idyllwild Wednesday causing evacuations and a major air and ground assault to quench the spreading blaze that may have been set by an arsonist.
At press time the CHP had closed all roads into Idyllwild and Mountain Center from Hemet, Banning, and Palm Springs and had issued an evacuation order to residents in the southwest area of the popular mountain community. Fires reportedly were burning in several locations along Highways 74 and 243. A main fire was reported to be west of the sewer ponds below Idyllwild Arts.
Police reportedly had stopped a vehicle near Newport Road and Garnet Lane in Hemet for questioning after the CHP issued a report that a suspicious vehicle had been seen leaving the area of one of the fires. The vehicle was described as a white Honda and they were able to provide Hemet Police dispatch center with a license plate.
According to a report released by Lt. Eric Dickson from HPD, around noon on July 25 Hemet Police detectives detained the driver of the vehicle and Cal-Fire responded to the scene to take over.
Getting off the mountain could prove problematic for residents and visitors in the mountains as Highway 74 was reported closed in both directions between Mountain Center and the Cranston USFS Ranger Station near Valle Vista. Cars were being allowed down Highway 243 to Banning but not up toward the other direction.
Cal Fire had requested no fewer than 10 air tankers to attack the fires and was dedicating five engines for structure defense. Cal Fire crews were focusing their efforts on the Inspiration Point area at the end of Double View Drive, officials said..
Within 40 minutes, the fire grew to 200, then 800 acres by 2 p.m. Wednesday. By press time it was 4,700 acres and only 5 percent contained.