MOUNTAIN CENTER, CA – A brush fire burning in the San Jacinto mountains just east of Hemet has burned 715 acres and was 20% contained Saturday morning.

The fire was reported about 1:16 am on Friday 15 in the 28000 block of Bonita Vista Road near the junctions for hwy 74 and hwy 243

Strong winds pushed the flames to the southwest, threatening the community of Mountain Center and prompting evacuation orders that were lifted by 6:00 pm on Friday.

The California Highway Patrol had closed Highway 74 between Lake Hemet and the hwy 74 / hwy 243 interchange, as well as hwy 243 between Saunders Meadow Road and the interchange. But at 12:30 p.m., the 243 was completely reopened, and the 74 was partially reopened.

During the afternoon, the CHP was providing escorts between Mountain Center and Lake Hemet, going both east and west, to control traffic volume, but all restrictions along the two-lane corridor were lifted by 6 p.m.

Cal Fire air tankers departed the area early in the afternoon, leaving two water-dropping helicopters to make runs on the fire. Personnel and equipment from several agencies, including the Riverside Fire Department, that had been requested to assist under a mutual aid agreement returned home, according to reports from the scene.

More than 200 firefighters were on the fire lines, and the U.S. Forest Service took command of operations late in the day. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

LAST INFO FROM CALFIRE UPDATED 01/16/2021

Incident Name: Bonita
Type of Incident: Wildland Fire
Incident Address: 28000blk Bonita Vista Dr.
Community: Mountain Center
Date Reported: 1/15/2021
Time Reported: 1:16 AM

***FINAL CAL FIRE UPDATE FRIDAY 1/15/2021 6:00 P.M. The Bonita Fire is 715 acres and is now 20% contained. All Evacuation ORDERS and road closures are lifted. Please use caution when driving in the fire area and yield to personnel and equipment so they may safely continue work to fully contain and control the fire.

ALSO EFFECTIVE FRIDAY 1/15/2021 AT 6:00 P.M. – CAL FIRE/RIVERSIDE COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT WILL TRANSFER COMMAND OF THIS INCIDENT TO THE U.S. FOREST SERVICE . RESIDENTS AND MEDIA, PLEASE CALL 909-383-5688 FOR QUESTIONS AND FUTURE UPDATES FOR THE DURATION OF THE INCIDENT. ***

UPDATE @ 1:30 p.m. – The Evacuation Order has been lifted for all residents West of Highways 74 and 243. An Evacuation Order remains in place for residents East of Highways 74 and 243 from Keenwild Fire Station to the north and Keen Camp Rd. to the south. Please use caution returning to the area as fire crews continue to work.
UPDATE @ 12:30 p.m. – All road closures in the area of the Bonita Fire have been lifted, with the exception of Highway 74 from Mountain Center to Lake Hemet. This area will be reduced to one lane with law enforcement escorts.
CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department is in Unified Command with Riverside County Sheriff’s Office and San Bernardino National Forest.
Click here for an interactive map.

UPDATE 6:35 a.m. – The fire remains 600 acres and is now 5% contained.

UPDATE 5:45 a.m. – The fire is 600 acres and 0% contained.

An Evacuation Center has been established at the Banning Community center (789 N. San Gorgonio Avenue, Banning).

Large Animal Evacuations: San Jacinto Animal Campus (581 S. Grand Avenue, San Jacinto).

Road Closures (LIFTED @ 12:30 p.m. on 1/15/21):
Highway 74 at Morris Ranch Rd.
Highway 74 at Strawberry Creek
Highway 243 at Saunders Meadow
CHP Traffic Page

UPDATE 3:35 a.m. – The fire is 250 acres and 0% contained.

UPDATE 3:20 a.m. – The fire is 200 acres and 0% contained. An Evacuation ORDER has been issued for the residents of Mountain Center. Please use Highway 243 towards Banning and Highway 74 towards Palm Desert to leave the area.
Click Here for the Riverside County Emergency Management page with evacuation information.

CAL FIRE/Riverside County Firefighters responded to reports of a wildland fire at the 28000blk of Bonita Vista Road in Mountain Center. The first arriving engine company reported 15 acres of heavy vegetation and pine trees involved. Updates will be posted as information becomes available.

 


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By John Strangis

John is a reporter, photojournalist, photographer and videographer who has contributed to local and national TV news stations and publications. He has a great passion for news but specifically for working in the field as a stringer. "Being a nightcrawler isn't just a job, it's a lifestyle." - John Strangis

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