Valley News -

By Kim Harris
Managing Editor 

12 buildings destroyed, 5 damaged in Cranston fire

 

Last updated 7/31/2018 at 12:22pm

Shane Gibson

Hot spots of fire creeps along the base of pine trees along Apple Canyon Road as night falls during day two of the Cranston Fire, July 26.

A massive wildfire, started by an alleged arsonist Wednesday, July 25, has destroyed 12 buildings and damaged five homes in the Mountain Center and Idyllwild area, officials said.

The fast-moving Cranston fire, which had charred 13,139 acres and was 82 percent contained as of press time, tore through the mountain communities amid scorching temperatures and forced thousands to flee their homes under mandatory evacuations for the entire town and areas surrounding it.

Mandatory evacuations for the entire mountain area, including Idyllwild, Pine Cove, Mountain Center, Fern Valley, Lake Hemet, Apple Canyon, Hurkey Creek, Camp Scherman Girl Scout Camp and all of Garner Valley, were quickly enacted for the residents’ safety as the fire quickly spread to more than 4,500 acres in the first day.

To see photos by Valley News freelance photographer Scott Padgett and staff photographer Shane Gibson, visit http://www.myvalleynews.com/photos/07_27_2018

Red Cross emergency shelters were opened at Banning and Hamilton high schools.

According to an incident report issued by the San Bernardino National Forest Public Information Office, 4,927 homes were threatened and an estimated 7,002 people fled the mountain communities during the height of the blaze.

Residents of Pine Cove, Fern Valley, Cedar Glen, portions of Idyllwild and portions of Garner Valley south of Morris Ranch Road were allowed to return home over the weekend with stern warnings from the Riverside County Department of Public Health to throw away all perishable food items and to be aware of hazardous materials that can be found in the debris and ash from the fire and result in adverse health impacts to people.

County Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser issued an order related to fire debris, cautioning people against unsafe removal, transport, and disposal of fire debris.

“Riverside County Environmental Health Director Steve Van Stockum’s department is overseeing a fire debris clearance program to ensure the safe removal and disposal of hazardous fire debris,” according to the press release announcing the order.

Riverside County Department of Waste Resources will assist residents with debris removal that includes such items as appliances, e-waste, and other non-hazardous debris.

Residents that do not participate in the voluntary program must register with and obtain the permission of Waste Resources before beginning removal of fire debris and conduct their debris removal in a manner that does not endanger the community and that the actions comply with all legal requirements, the order stated.

Alleged arsonist arrested

The suspected arsonist, Brandon McGlover of Temecula, was quickly arrested in Hemet and taken into custody. He entered “not guilty” pleas to 15 felony counts Friday, July 27, according to the Riverside County County District Attorney’s office. McGlover’s next court date is scheduled for Sept. 21.

He is being held at the Cois M. Byrd Detention Center in lieu of $3.5 million bail.

A State of Emergency declared

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency due to the fire, Thursday, July 26, opening the door for state aid to supplement local resources in preventing or alleviating damages, loss, hardship or suffering and making response and recovery funding available for those affected by the blaze.

Officials with San Bernardino National Forest announced a forest order, Friday, July 27, creating the Cranston Fire Closure Area. The order was prepared in order to protect natural resources and ensure public safety in the area.

Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Riverside County, toured the fire zone Friday, accompanied by officials from Cal Fire to learn about the progress being made on the fire.

“I want to express my sympathy to the families who have been displaced and harmed by this most recent tragic event,” Stone said in a released statement. “I stand ready to work with you to provide the help and assistance you need and deserve, and I will continue to do everything I can to help you in this time of need.”

As many as 1,800 personnel were working to contain the fire at the height of the blaze.

Air quality takes a nosedive

The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued numerous smoke advisories due to heavy and drifting smoke from the Cranston Fire. Areas of direct smoke impacts and unhealthful air quality included Anza, the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley, the Temecula Valley, Banning Pass, the Coachella Valley and Perris Valley.

Firefighters injured

Three firefighters were injured battling the blaze. The extent of their injuries is unknown.

Massive power outages

Southern California Edison turned off power to the area at the request of firefighters battling the blaze and damage to an estimated 2 miles of power lines resulted in massive power outages throughout the area, including Anza and Aguanga.

In Anza, 5,200 customers of the Anza Electric Cooperative were without power until some was restored Monday, July 30.

“There are indications that circuits serving the area have sustained significant damage, but as of now SCE has not been granted access to the fire areas due to safety concerns and does not have access to assess the damage,” SCE said.

Shane Gibson

Reporters from dozens of news agencies and publications descend on the Cranston fire as it continues its spread in the Mt San Jacinto wilderness, July 26.

Those in the Anza area without power were invited to go to the Community Hall, located at 56630 Highway 371 in Anza, where AEC borrowed generators were running.

A call to Anza Electric Cooperative Thursday revealed that several locations in the area were open for business and are available for those who need a place to cool down.

AEC Member Services Manager Katherine McIver said AEC brought in four large generators to help relieve the situation, energizing circuits for a specific amount of time on a rotating basis.

A town hall meeting was held Thursday night at the Anza Community Hall, where AEC officials said power could be out for as long as two weeks.

AEC is requesting that all residents continue to conserve energy and keep their air conditioning off to avoid overloading the generators.

Firefighters expect full containment on the blaze, Aug. 9.

Jeff Pack, JP Raineri, Tony Ault and Jacob Preal all contributed to this story.

 

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