800-Acre Forest Fire Possibly Arson, Suspect Detained

MOUNTAIN CENTER (CNS) - A brush fire that might have been intentionally set erupted today in the San Bernardino National Forest, burning at least 800 acres and leading to road closures and evacuations in the area. 

The so-called Cranston Fire was reported at around noon off state Route 74 in the forest area between Hemet and Mountain Center, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The fire was burning ``with a rapid rate of spread,'' according to the USFS. No injuries have been reported in connection with the blaze, which was zero percent contained as of late Wednesday afternoon. The cause of the fire has not been confirmed, but a California Highway Patrol incident log indicated that a person was detained, possibly in connection with arson. 

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for residents of southwest Idyllwild, as well as Mountain Center along McGaugh and McCall Park roads.``Leave the area immediately,'' a USFS Twitter post advised. 

Authorities have established an evacuation center at Banning High School, 100 W. Westward Ave. Road closures include state Route 74 between the Cranston Fire Station and Lake Hemet, as well as state Route 243 between the communities of Pine Cove and Mountain Center, where authorities say flames jumped the highway near the Idyllwild Grinding Facility. 

Authorities have also issued a smoke advisory for the region, advising that winds could bring smoke into various parts of Riverside County, including the Coachella Valley, Banning Pass, the Hemet/San Jacinto Valley, Perris Valley and Anza. The advisory will be in effect through Thursday morning. 

A fire information call center for the public has also been established at (909) 383-5688.

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