Valley News -

By Stephanie Lai

Holy Fire is 72 percent contained, Ortega Highway reopened to traffic

U.S. Forest Service anticipates full containment by Aug. 21


Last updated 8/15/2018 at 2:09pm

Shane Gibson

Firefighters work at putting out hot spots near homes along Westlong Street in Lake Elsinore during the fifth day of the Holy Fire, Aug. 10.

UPDATE: Aug. 15, 1:30 p.m.

Evacuation orders have been lifted for three more communities in Riverside County after firefighters made progress against

the Holy Fire, which is 72 percent contained after charring 22,986 acres in the Cleveland National Forest.

Mandatory evacuation orders were lifted for the Mystic Oaks community near Lake Elsinore, as well as the El Cariso and Rancho Capistrano areas in Riverside County.

More than 1,300 firefighters continued to battle the fire, which spread from Orange County's eastern mountains toward Santiago Peak, and over the mountains to the hills above Lake Elsinore.

Structure defense was expected to continue in areas still threatened by flames while mop up will be ongoing as crews bring the fire under control, officials said.

As of Monday, 18 homes had been confirmed destroyed — 12 in Orange County and six in Riverside County. The Orange County structures lost were believed to be primarily in the Holy Jim Canyon area, the flashpoint of the fire.

The Blue Jay, Falcon and Los Pinos campgrounds all remained closed, along with trails leading into the burn area.

A voluntary evacuation order for the Trilogy area in Temescal Valley also remained in effect. Long Canyon Road loop remains closed on the west above the entrance to Mystic Oaks and on the east on North Main Divide at Ortega (74) Highway. In a positive development for motorists, a long stretch of the Ortega (74) Highway that was closed between Riverside and Orange counties due to the fire was reopened to traffic Tuesday.

However, power is off in the Highway 74 corridor and Southern California Edison crews are working to restore power in the area.

The U.S. Forest Service said it anticipates full containment of the blaze by August 21.

School districts affected by the fire delayed the start of the school year until next week. The Lake Elsinore Unified School District will go back on Monday.

UPDATE: Aug. 13, 9 a.m.

The Fire is at 22,714 acres and remains at 52% containment this morning.

Residents have begun returning home in Sycamore Creek, Glen Eden, Machodo andShoreline communities, Cleveland National Forest officials reports. Lake Elsinore community of Riverside evacuations have also been lifted.

Roads have opened from DePalma to Campbell Ranch Rd. Though, officials warn locals to drive cautiously around personnel and heavy equipment.

The Ortega Highway and Glen Eden Road at DePalma Road both remain closed.


Temescal Canyon, Corona, and Lake Elsinore locals gathered at Temescal Canyon Elementary school for a public meeting regarding the Holy Fire operational and incident command updates.

Over 1,500 personnel are on the front lines fighting the Holy Fire which has now reached 22,714 acres, Cleveland National Forest officials report 36 percent containment as of 7 p.m. The Aug. 6 fire is currently cooperating with the firefighters, and the growing containment is the result of constant grown and air resources holding lines.

See Shane Gibson photos here

Southern California Interagency Incident Management Team 1 reported 147 engines, 18 helicopters, 12 fixed wing, 23 dozers, 14 water tenders and 33 crews working on the fire today. "The folks up top are working hard to reach the point where they can use the retardant line that's in place and go direct with hand saws, chain saws, and whatever else to take the fuels away from the fire," Operations Section Chief Sal Reyes with Incident Management Team 1, said. These suppression efforts are focused on limiting the spread south toward the Ortega Highway, protecting the Coldwater Canyon area and keeping the fire west of Interstate 15. The unified firefighting command of Cal Fire, Orange County Fire, Riverside Fire and the U.S. Forest Service is shifting their resource priority to Coldwater Creek, Chris Fogel with The Southern California Interagency Incident Management Team 1 said. Personnel will be focusing on using direct tools to remove the fire fuels.

The Southern California Interagency Incident Management Team 1 reported a cooling weather trend into Monday, resulting in moderate fire behavior and improved firefighting conditions.

Mandatory evacuations have been lifted for Machado community, Horsethief Canyon, McVicker and Rice area. All other evacuation orders are still in place, impacting nearly 2,700 people according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Public Information officer from the county of Riverside Shane Reichardt reported that at the height of evacuations, Temescal Canyon High School housed 444 evacuees and have now decreased to 55 by this afternoon. He also stated that the County Animal Service is currently housing 233 dogs, 81 cats and 110 other animals including horses and goats.

Locals in attendance at the Aug. 11 meeting asked for estimated dates for lifting evacuation orders for Sycamore Creek and Glen Eden. Fire officials are hoping for lifting the evacuation order within the next 24 hours but are still unsure due to infrastructure damage.

There is now an interactive map where residents can enter their address and verify if they are under an evacuation order. Find it at

Road closures remain in effect for DePalma at Horsethief Canyon, at Indian Truck Trail and Campbell Road at Temescal Canyon.

Due to air quality, Corona-Norco Unified School District Superintendent Michael Lin stated that they will be delaying the start of the 2018-2019 school year for 23 schools from south of the 91 freeway to east of Border Avenue. For these schools their start date will be Aug. 20. CNUSD Governing Board Member Bill Polack added that there is a strong likelihood that these impacted schools will not need to make up the five days of missed instruction.

Lake Elsinore Unified School District will also delay all of their school's first day of school to Aug. 20. Menifee Unified School District schools will open on Monday. Perris Union High School District officials said they will decide Sunday whether schools in the district will be open Monday. Schools in the Perris Elementary School District will open Thursday, Aug. 16.

For evacuated families, the Office of Senator Ken Calvert has taken the lead on postal services. According to a representative of Senator Calvert, they have spoken to postmasters and are holding mail.

Outside of the multipurpose room, the American Red Cross gave out supplies to those affected by the Holy Fire including water, nose masks and trash bags. Devyn Gray from Red Cross expressed her gratitude of the community's efforts and donations, but asked for locals to refrain from bringing anymore donations to the shelters. Instead, financial donations are accepted and can help replace evacuee glasses or buy medication, Gray said.

Timelapse of the Holy Fire approaching HPWREN equipment and buildings near Santiago Peak.

Currently the Red Cross has set up two evacuation sites at Temescal Valley High School and San Juan Hills High School. Red Cross will also be giving away supplies for fire affected individuals at Target in Lake Elsinore from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sgt. John Magnan of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department spoke on behalf of the patrolling personnel, reassuring evacuees that looting and break-ins were not common. He stated that since they began patrolling, the department encountered only one report of a break-in and that they have detained the suspect. There are currently 40 to 45 officers patrolling and 30 to 40 throughout the night.

With Riverside and Orange County in a State of Emergency, public safety personnel are continuing to work to remove fuels and prevent damage from the Holy Fire.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.


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