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Tuesday Update: Cranston Fire 82% Contained; Idyllwild Community Meeting Thanks Firefighters

Twitter/San Bernardino National Forest


Firefighters continue to make what authorities call “excellent progress” in holding the Cranston Fire to just more than 13,000 acres burned, with containment boosted to 82%.  The Cranston Fire was first reported midday Wednesday, July 25 in the San Bernardino National Forest near the Riverside County mountain resort community of Idyllwild.  The blaze spread quickly, closing roads and campgrounds, and prompting the evacuation of some 6,000 people from the Idyllwild/Pine Cove/Mountain Center area from Thursday through last weekend.

The latest briefing Tuesday morning from Unified Command supervising the fight against the Cranston Fire confirmed that all evacuation orders have been lifted, and full access to most previously evacuated areas has been restored.  Authorities lifted the last set of evacuation orders for areas near Lake Hemet and Mountain Center Tuesday morning.  Southern California Edison continues efforts to restore power to the area, with many new power poles having been installed and wired just in the past couple of days.

Authorities say the Cranston Fire has destroyed 12 structures and damaged five others.  There are still more than 1,200 personnel and about a dozen aircraft assigned to help fight the Cranston Fire, reduced from more than 1,700 personnel at the fire’s peak last week.  Two firefighters were injured.

Monday night, a crowd estimated at more than 500 people packed the auditorium at Idyllwild High School for a community meeting, at which Officials from numerous agencies spoke about the fire, repopulation and highway conditions among other issues. The Press-Enterprise reports the first thing the crowd did at the start of the meeting was jump to its feet and give a big round of applause for the firefighters they credit for saving their communities.  Officials briefed residents on the status of the firefight, roads, electrical power, and security in the area.  Pe.com reports authorities have assigned 24-hour security patrols to the mountain to make sure homes are safe and no one comes into neighborhoods who shouldn’t.

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 its 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 Monday, the so-called Ribbon Fire along Highway 74 near the community of Pinyon Pines scorched less than 300 acres and was fully contained.

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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