Firefighters Make Progress on Blaze Near Murrieta

Fast-Moving Tenaja Fire Forces Evacuations

MURRIETA (CNS) - A wildfire west of Murrieta has burned 1,940 acres and was 73% contained as of 7 p.m. Sunday, while firefighters anticipated full containment by Friday.

The fire's size was revised downward Saturday due to better mapping, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

The Tenaja blaze was reported at 3:55 p.m. Wednesday in the area of Clinton Keith and Tenaja roads in the unincorporated community of La Cresta.

All evacuation orders and warnings affecting hundreds of homes were lifted at 8 p.m. Friday.

Clinton Keith Road, a primary north-south route through La Cresta, was reopened Saturday afternoon after being out of service between Chantory Street to Avenida La Cresta since the fire ignited. All other roads in the area were open, though fire officials warned that further closures were possible as work on the fire continued.

Over 700 firefighters from Riverside County, Cal Fire, Murrieta Fire and Rescue, the Hemet Fire Department, Corona Fire Department, the Orange County Fire Authority and U.S. Forest Service battled the blaze. Three firefighters suffered non-life threatening injuries, officials said.

Resources sent to battle the flames included 35 engines, four water tenders, nine hand crews and two bulldozers, according to Cal Fire Riverside.

Two homes sustained minor damage, according to Cal Fire Division Chief Todd Hopkins.

Another 1,200 homes were threatened at the height of the fire, Hopkins said.

“Crews have been doing an excellent job getting into difficult areas and stopping the flames before they damage structures,” Hopkins said.

Murrieta Police Chief Sean Hadden said 570 properties were evacuated at one point.

All schools in the Murrieta Valley, Lake Elsinore, Menifee Union and Romoland Unified school districts were closed because of the impact of the fire. Classes were scheduled to resume on Monday.

The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve and Sylvan Meadows were expected to be closed for some time and all trails were closed due to safety hazards from the fire, officials said.

A thunderstorm cell moved through the area just prior to the fire, and it's suspected that a lightning strike ignited it.

Power lines were reported down at the location.

The Riverside County Department of Public Health issued an air quality advisory, warning residents north and east of the Tenaja blaze that fire debris could have negative health impacts.

“Ash and smoke can be hard on anyone to breathe, but especially those with lung disease,” Riverside County public health officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser said. “Everyone worries about the flames, but smoke can impact you even if you're miles away from the fire.”

Kaiser recommended young children and those in sensitive health to stay indoors and run air conditioners -- with unobstructed filters -- to minimize the effects of smoke and ash.

The American Red Cross announced Friday it closed the shelter it was operating at Murrieta Mesa High School.

Anyone affected by the fire in need of Red Cross assistance was urged to call 855-243-3815.

Photo: Getty Images

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