Blaze in Cleveland National Forest Forces Closure of Ortega Highway

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO (CNS) - A brush fire that erupted today in the Cleveland National Forest between Lake Elsinore and San Juan Capistrano scorched five to 10 acres and prompted the closure of the Ortega (74) Highway.

The non-injury blaze was reported about 2:35 p.m. at the halfway point between the two cities, within a campground on the south side of the highway, according to the California Highway Patrol.

U.S. Forest Service personnel were sent to the location, with assistance from Riverside County fire crews.

A Cal Fire water-dropping helicopter and air tanker were dispatched and made repeated runs on the blaze, helping crews get roughly a third of the brusher contained, according to reports from the scene. No structures were immediately threatened.

The CHP implemented a hard closure for both the east- and westbound sides of the highway, forcing motorists to turn around and head back into Lake Elsinore or San Juan Capistrano, depending on what direction they were traveling. However, officers were permitting residents of communities along the highway, including Rancho Correo, to drive to their homes under escort, according to the CHP.

Crews were expected to remain on the fire lines through the night, mopping up.

There was no immediate word on what might have sparked the brusher.

Photo: Getty Images

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