Minimal Spread Expected as Cranston Fire Is 57 Percent Contained

IDYLLWILD (CNS) - More than 1,500 firefighters continued working to clear a line of vegetation around the 13,130-acre Cranston Fire in the Idyllwild area, which is now 57 percent surrounded, with minimal spread expected today, officials said.

Fire behavior through tonight is expected to be limited to creeping and smoldering and any movement should be minimal and in more remote areas where containment lines have not been constructed, according to an update on the CalFire Inciweb site. The latest update provided Sunday evening estimated full containment on or around Aug. 9.

Residents of the Mountain Center, Apple Canyon and Lake Hemet areas remain evacuated, but fire officials continue to evaluate whether to allow them to return.

Residents on Sunday were allowed to return to mountain hamlets at Pine Cove, Cedar Glen and Fern Valley, as far south as Idyllwild. And on the southwest flank of the danger area, residents were allowed to return to some evacuated ranches north of Anza.

Emergency management officials warned those entering previously evacuated areas to watch for charred trees, utility poles and other debris on the roads.

A community meeting to update residents is scheduled for 7 tonight at the Idyllwild Scott, 26700 state Route 243.

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

Highway 74 remains closed from Morris Ranch Road, northwest of the Highway 371 junction, through Mountain Center, and as far west as Hemet.

Road closures remain in effect on state Highway 243 south of Banning. Highway 74 is 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 remains open.

Caltrans began work over the weekend to repair damage to state Routes 74 and 243 under a $5 million emergency contract.

Three firefighters were injured battling the blaze, which began just before noon Wednesday off Highway 74 in the San Jacinto Mountains between Hemet and Mountain Center, just east of the Cranston Fire Station.

About 4,900 structures were threatened at one point, with 12 buildings destroyed and five others damaged at the outset of the blaze, which investigators believe was deliberately set by a suspect accused of starting a total of nine arson fires in southwest Riverside County on the same day.

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, was charged Friday with 15 felony counts -- 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 and is due back in court Sept. 24 for a felony settlement conference.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday issued a state of emergency in Riverside County, clearing the way to provide needed state resources to battle the blaze, which has damaged two miles of Southern California Edison power lines, causing electrical outages in Anza and surrounding unincorporated areas in Riverside County.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which takes guests to Mt. San Jacinto State Park, was closed Thursday afternoon but reopened at 10 this morning.

Authorities issued a smoke advisory for the region through Tuesday morning, 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 public can call (909) 383-5688 for information.

Photo: Getty Images

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