Brush Fire Scorches 40 Acres in Thermal, Evacuations Lifted

THERMAL (CNS) - Crews worked today to completely surround a 40-acre brush fire that destroyed seven structures, a bus, a RV and 13 vehicles, in addition to causing minor injuries to three firefighters. The fire broke out for unknown reasons just before 3 p.m. Monday near Martinez Road and Avenue 66, prompting authorities to issue an evacuation order for all residents of the Torres-Martinez Indian Reservation. Martinez Road and Polk Street were also closed between Avenue 66 and Avenue 68. 

Fire Department Capt. Fernando Herrera said the blaze was burning in ``palm trees and large piles of debris'' and was 90 percent contained as of Tuesday afternoon. 

The Riverside County Fire Department reported late Monday that a limited number of residents living outside the reservation lands were allowed to return to their homes. A cooling center was opened for any affected residents at Body of Christ Church, 62950 Monroe St.

Riverside County Fire Department crews battled the blaze amid 121- degree temperatures and strong winds Monday afternoon. The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for the Coachella Valley, warning of triple-digit temperatures through Thursday evening, with temperatures reaching 120 degrees in Thermal this afternoon. 

Cal Fire Division Chief Eddy Moore said the high heat, humidity and wind hampered firefighting efforts, and ``really made it difficult for firefighters to suppress the fire.''Three firefighters sustained unspecified, non-life-threatening injuries during the firefight, and were taken to a hospital.

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