All roads in the area of a 355-acre wildfire that destroyed one home and injured three firefighters west of Murrieta were reopened Thursday, but the fire remained 75 percent contained after a flare-up burned additional acres.
A patch of unburned brush ignited about 2:30 p.m., sending up a column of smoke visible from area homes and Interstate 15 a few miles to the east.
According to the Riverside County Fire Department, crews assigned to the wildfire, which broke out Wednesday near Tenaja and Via Volcano roads, halted the blaze’s forward progress.
“Containment and control estimates will be re-evaluated tomorrow,” Jody Hagemann of the Riverside County Fire Department said in a 7 p.m. update.
Fire officials had said earlier today they expected the blaze to be fully controlled by this evening.
The wildfire, which started about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday and charred hillsides in the unincorporated community of Deluz, was sparked by equipment operated by a Riverside County Transportation Department worker mowing alongside Tenaja Road for brush clearance.
“The county is providing its full cooperation as fire department officials continue their investigation,” county Executive Office spokesman Ray
Smith said. “Each year, the county works to reduce the chance of fire by clearing brush and weeds along roadsides. The fire is a tragedy for the residents whose homes are threatened and whose lives and families are being disrupted. County officials will do everything in their power to assist them.”
One firefighter suffered a broken ankle and was taken to a hospital. Two other crew members suffered unspecified minor injuries, authorities said.
A two-story house was destroyed by the flames, which threatened numerous other residences, but firefighters were able to protect them. Most of the side roads in the area are dirt, with homes built along hillsides.
Voluntary, or “soft,” evacuations were in place throughout Wednesday afternoon for residents who did not feel safe, but no so-called mandatory evacuations were ordered.
All residents except those whose home was destroyed had returned Thursday, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
More than 300 personnel from multiple agencies, including the Riverside County, Murrieta and Los Angeles County fire departments and the Pechanga tribal fire unit battled the blaze at its height.
A total of 39 engine crews, six water tender companies and 11 hand crews were deployed. Seven water-dropping helicopters and six air tankers were also called into action.