Crews making some progress in battle against Tenaja Fire in Riverside County

tenaja fire
Posted at 6:49 AM, Sep 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-06 18:00:10-04

MURRIETA, Calif. (AP) - Crews are making some progress in their battle against a wildfire in Riverside County that forced evacuations and road closures.

As of Friday morning, Cal Fire officials said the so-called Tenaja Fire has burned 2,000 acres in Murrieta and the community of La Cresta and is 20 percent contained.

Officials said evacuation orders for several streets have been downgraded to warnings, meaning residents are able to return to their homes but will need to be prepared to leave if necessary.

Evacuation orders on the following streets are now warnings:

-- Montanya Place
-- Bonita Place
-- Belcara Place
-- Lone Oak Way
-- streets south of Calle del Oso Oro and Trails Circle

Evacuation warnings are still in place for Bear Creek Canyon and Copper Canyon, officials said.

Clinton Keith Road remained closed to all traffic, Cal Fire reported.

On Thursday, crews were able to save several homes after gusty winds pushed the wildfire to the edge of several neighborhoods.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Tenaja Fire Evacuation Zones, Road Closures

Renewed winds presented challenges for firefighters as flames burned dry brush and trees near houses. Two structures sustained minor damage.

"The front of the fire came right down into the neighborhood. There was just a massive amount of fuel on those hillsides," said Capt. Fernando Herrera with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Aircraft made continuous drops of water and retardant, he said.

Renee Harshman said she could see the Tenaja Fire grow before dawn from her bedroom window in the Copper Canyon neighborhood of Murrieta on the southern edge of the blaze.

"It was very scary to watch the flames, because it was riding along the ridge," she told the Riverside Press-Enterprise. "It was coming where a lot of people live."

About 570 homes were in the mandatory evacuation zone and another 2,200 were under voluntary evacuation orders, officials said Thursday.

Firefighters protected horse farms near La Cresta as gusty winds whipped up flames and thick smoke on the western side of the blaze, Herrera said.

The fire erupted Wednesday afternoon on rural land, and erratic winds quickly pushed flames down hills toward homes about 70 miles (115 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles.

The cause may have been a lightning strike as hot, muggy weather produced thunderstorms. Several small fires were sparked by lightning Thursday in the forest north of Los Angeles. Thunderstorms were possible into Friday, the National Weather Service said.