HEMET, Calif. (AP) — Two wildfires burned out of control in the inland Southern California region on Wednesday, forcing evacuations in communities and a mountain resort area.
The deadly Fairview Fire grew to nearly 8 square miles (20.7 square kilometers) near the city of Hemet in Riverside County, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles.
Cal Fire Battalion Chief Josh Janssen told a predawn briefing that the fire remained just 5% contained with “open fire on all sides of the fire still threatening several communities.”
The fire erupted Monday amid triple-digit heat and spread ferociously, killing two people who were found in a vehicle, severely burning another person while destroying seven structures and damaging several others.
“Unfortunately we aren’t able to positively identify the victims at this time but we do believe that they were from the same family,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Brandi Swan. “It appears as though the two victims that were found inside the vehicle were trying to flee from the fire.”
The injured person was identified only as a woman. Swan said she was expected to survive.
The cause of the fire was under investigation. Southern California Edison notified the California Public Utilities Commission that “circuit activity” occurred close in time to when the fire was reported, the Los Angeles Times said. The activity was not specified.
About 35 miles (56 kilometers) to the north, smoke loomed over ski runs in the San Bernardino Mountains as the Radford Fire fed on stands of timber south of the Big Bear Lake resort region.
The blaze had spread over about 1.5 square miles (3.8 square kilometers) since being spotted by a U.S. Forest Service helicopter crew Monday afternoon. It was just 2% contained as of Tuesday night.