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Monday Update: More Progress On Cranston Fire; Evacuations Lifted; Locals Meet Tonight In Idyllwild

Ken Vincent for KVCR


Authorities say firefighters made a second day of good progress containing the Cranston Fire, which has been burning in the San Bernardino National Forest near the Riverside County mountain resort community of Idyllwild since Wednesday, July 25.  Unified Command reports Monday morning that the Cranston Fire is being held at 13,130 acres, and has reached 57% containment, up from 29% containment the day before.  There are more than 1,500 personnel assigned to the blaze, along with 25 aircraft assisting from the air.

Most evacuations ordered for the Cranston Fire last week have been lifted.  Over the weekend, thousands of people were allowed through roadblocks to begin repopulating the communities around Idyllwild/Pine Cove that were evacuated for up to four days as firefighters worked to contain the blaze and keep it from more populated areas.  Authorities said Monday morning that an assessment of damage reveals a total 12 buildings destroyed by the Cranston Fire, and 5 other damaged.  Two firefighters were injured.

Unified command authorities and other officials will recap the past week’s work on the Cranston Fire - and nearby smaller Ribbon Fire – at a community meeting to be held tonight at 7:00pm at Idyllwild High School, 26700 Highway 243 in Idyllwild.

There are still some road closures for area residents to be aware of.  Highway 243 is closed from Lower Saunders Meadow Road to Highway 74 (Residents with ID can enter the closure in Banning at Wesley St). Highway 74 is closed between Borco Street in Hemet and Morris Ranch Road in Garner Valley. 

There are still evacuation orders in place for Mountain Center, Hurkey Creek, San Jacinto Mountain State Park, and Garner Valley north of Morris Ranch Road under a mandatory evacuation.  However, authorities say the number of resident still affected by evacuation orders are about 500, a fraction of the estimated 6,000 people who were ordered out of the area last week.

Authorities also said that Caltrans crews have been working to remove hazardous trees along roads, and that Southern California Edison has been working to restore power to those areas still without electricity.

Shortly after the Cranston Fire was reported midday Wednesday, authorities arrested a man suspected of having started the fire.  32-year-old Brandon Mc Glover of Temecula has been charged by the Riverside County District Attorney with 15 counts of arson.  McGlover is being held on a million dollars bail.  [UPDATE: On Friday,  The Press-Enterprise reported that, in his first court appearance, McGlover entered pleas of not guilty on all counts.  The suspect's bail was increased to $3.5 million.]

Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in Riverside County, which will aid local authorities in getting state and federal resources to help pay for the fight against the blaze.
At it's peak late last week, nearly 5,000 structures were threatened by the blaze.  6,000 people were evacuated from the mountain communities along Highways 243 and 74.  Highway 74 was closed from Lake Hemet to Highway 243 in Mountain Center, and Highway 243 was closed from the 10 Freeway in Banning to Highway 74 in Mountain Center.  Authorities are still regulating who is being allowed past roadblocks as the controlled repopulation of a limited number of areas continues.

Thursday, as the blaze continued spread quickly, all campgrounds in the area were closed and evacuated.  Authorities in Palm Springs on Thursday ordered the closure of the Palm Springs Ariel Tramway.  The Cranston Fire was burning several miles south of the tram’s mountain station on Mt. San Jacinto, but an abundance of caution – and a lot of smoke hanging in the air above the Coachella Valley – prompted the tram’s closure.  Officials there say the tram was expecting to reopen to the public and resume a normal schedule on Monday, July 30.

There was another fire reported burning southwest of the Cranston Fire.  At last report Friday, the so-called Ribbon Fire scorched about 200 acres and was 45% contained along Highway 74 near the community of Pinyon Pines.

By the end of the week, the South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory for the Inland Empire and the Coachella Valley, due to heavy smoke and ash coming from the mountain blazes.

Ken Vincent has retired. We appreciate the way he shared his expertise with many of our young interns and reporters over the nearly eight years he spent as KVCR's lead journalist and Morning Edition host. We wish him a happy and relaxing retirement as he spends more time in his garden and, as he mentioned, more time on the golf course. Thanks Ken!
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