Cranston Fire Slows Down But Still Threatens Idyllwild

 IDYLLWILD (CNS) - The Cranston Fire has slowed down, and crews began clearing roads, removing downed powerlines, otherwise preparing to reopen roads and neighborhoods in the Idyllwild area, they said today.

 Firefighters continued to cut lines on the northeast and southeast flanks of the fire, now estimated to be 29 percent contained. The burnewd acreage estimate remained at 13,118 acres.

 ``Concerns remain on the northeast portion of the fire, along South Ridge, where the fire threatened to back through retardant lines above the town of Idyllwild,” firefighters said in their Sunday morning incident report.

 ``Great strides were made toward containment of the fire with crews mopping up to prevent escape.” they said.

 Another 400 firefighters were added to the assignment Saturday, with 1,742 today working on the fire front and in support roles, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

 Various firefighting agencies had 239 fire engines, 39 crews, 15 water tankers, 12 bulldozers, nine helicopters and three airplanes working at the fire today.

 More than 7,000 people remained evacuated from homes, cabins and summer camps in the San Jacinto Mountains, south of Banning and east of Hemet. Communities affected include Mountain Center, Idyllwild, Herkey Creek, San Jacinto Mountain State Park, Fern Valley, Pine Cove, Cedar Glen and Garner Valley.

 As for lifting those evacuation orders, the USFS said a plan was being drafted for ``a methodical process to ensure the safety of the residents and responders on the incident.”

 All U.S. Forest Service lands in the San Jacinto Ranger District and the adjacent Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument have been closed to public entry for 30 days.

 Road closures remained in effect on state Highway 243 south of Banning. Highway 74 was closed from Hemet past Highway 243 at Mountain Center, to the Highway 371 junction at Aguanga.

 The Palms To Pines Highway between San Diego County and the Coachella Valley remained open.

 The fire was called in just before noon Wednesday off Highway 74 in the forest area between Hemet and Mountain Center, just east of the Cranston Fire Station. About 4,900 structures were threatened.

 The arson suspect, Brandon N. McGlover, 32, of Temecula, was arrested about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday near Newport Road and State Street in Hemet. McGlover, who's being held in lieu of $3.5 million bail, is suspected of setting nine fires in southwest Riverside County, including the Cranston Fire.

 Prosecutors filed 15 arson counts against him Friday morning -- one count of aggravated arson, five counts of arson of an inhabited structure, and nine counts of arson of forest or wildland. He pleaded not guilty to all counts Friday afternoon and is due back in court Sept. 24 for a felony settlement conference.

 Two firefighters were injured battling the blaze, but no details were disclosed of how they were injured or the extent of their injuries.

 The Cranston Fire damaged two miles of Southern California Edison power lines, causing electrical outages in Anza and surrounding unincorporated areas in Riverside County, The Desert Sun reported.

 Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday issued a state of emergency in Riverside County, which clears the way to provide needed state resources to battle the blaze.

 Authorities established an evacuation center for residents and campers at Banning High School, 100 W. Westward Ave., and Hamilton High School in Anza, 57430 Mitchell Road.

 Animals of all sizes can be taken to the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus at 581 S. Grand Ave.

 Small and large animals can also be evacuated to Dysart Equestrian Park, 2101 W. Victory Ave. in Banning, but the small ones will be transferred to the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus. Residents can call (951) 358-7329 for assistance with moving animals. Small animals will also be cared for at the Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms at 72050 Pet Land Place.

 The blaze also prompted the indefinite closure of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which takes guests to Mt. San Jacinto State Park, near where the fire continues to rage and send black smoke into the surrounding area.

 Authorities 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.

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

 Photo: Getty Images

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