The Highland Fire broke out Monday afternoon near Highlands and Aguanga Ranchos roads, the Riverside County Fire Department said. As of the latest update, the fire is currently mapped at nearly 2,500 acres and is 60% contained.
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About 1,200 firefighters are working to put out the fire that's destroyed at least 13 structures and damaged seven others as of Friday night, Cal Fire officials reported. More than 2,300 structures are threatened by the blaze, according to Cal Fire.
Crews took the firefight to the sky Monday, dropping more than 4,200 gallons of water on the wind-driven flames to try and slow the blaze.
"There was nothing we could do," one resident told FOX 11 Los Angeles. He said flames were 50 to 60 feet tall when they approached his home.
Evacuation orders and warnings have been issued in parts of Aguanga, some 100 miles southeast of Los Angeles or 75 miles northeast of San Diego. Additional evacuations have been ordered for areas south of Highway 79 near the border between Riverside and San Diego counties.
Residents were forced to flee quickly, and many left animals and livestock behind. Visiting Orange County crews delivered water and food to some of the animals Thursday.
Gale-force winds last weekend from the Santa Ana winds fueled the flames. Winds have since diminished and shifted to an onshore direction, which should add moisture and aid crews.
"Firefighters will continue building containment lines around the fire," stated the fire briefing. "The steep and rugged terrain remains a challenge, and low relative humidity in the fire area combined with a predicted change in wind conditions could increase the possibility of (hot) spots across the line."
The wildfire smoke from the Highland Fire reduced air quality across Southern California earlier this week. The South Coast Air Quality Management District had issued a smoke advisory, which was allowed to expire Thursday night.
Not the only fire
Santa Ana winds were also blamed for several more fires and flare-ups statewide. The Lizzie Fire has burned more than 100 acres in San Luis Obispo County. Cal Fire confirms that it is 100% contained.
Another fire sparked in Aromas, in San Benito County, on Tuesday morning. The blaze destroyed two buildings and forced nearby families to evacuate in fear the 5-acre fire would spread. At one point, more than 1,200 homes and businesses were in the dark after the fire burned several utility poles, which downed the wires. The blaze is 90% contained.
On Wednesday evening, a fire broke out on San Diego County's Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton. So far, it has charred 7,000 acres in areas called the Whiskey and Quebec Impact Areas, previously used for live fire mortar and artillery testing. The smoke from that fire had also contributed to the poor air quality. Camp Pendleton officials said on social media that no personnel or structures are threatened. The blaze is 50% contained.