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Possible Lightning Strike Sets Brush Ablaze Near Murrieta, Schools Closed

 MURRIETA (CNS) - A wind-driven wildfire that may have been started by
a lightning strike has scorched about 1,400 acres just west of Murrietta,
prompted evacuations and the closure of schools and is 7% contained this
   The blaze was first reported about 3:55 p.m. Wednesday in the area of
Clinton Keith and Tenaja roads, in the unincorporated community of La Cresta,
according to the Riverside County Fire Department.
   In the course of an hour Wednesday night, the fire exploded from 250
acres burned to nearly 1,000 acres, the fire department said. No injuries have
been reported.
   The agency reported 44 engine crews and seven hand crews, numbering
about 500 personnel, were sent to the location and encountered flames in heavy
vegetation, spreading to the north.
   Along with county crews, firefighters from Murrieta Fire & Rescue and
other agencies were working to contain the fire, which slowed as nightfall
   About 10 p.m., the Murrieta Valley Unified School District announced
all of its schools would be closed Thursday.
   ``This measure was taken in consideration for the safety and well-
being of our students, staff and their families,'' the district said in a post
on its Facebook page. ``In addition, with the number of mandatory and voluntary
evacuations in place and road closures in the area of the fire, we anticipate
students, staff and teachers would have difficulty getting to school sites
   All residents on The Trails Circle and Copper Canyon North and South
were under mandatory evacuation orders and areas of Bear Creek were under a
voluntary evacuation order. The Santa Rosa Plateau Visitor Center was shuttered
as the flames moved along the western side of Clinton Keith Road, crossing
ridges, the fire department said.
   ``This is the time people need to heed, need to make sure they prepare
and start voluntary evacuating,'' Riverside County fire Capt. Fernando
Herrera told KCAL9 Wednesday night. ``Don't wait until the last minute, don't
wait until that mandatory (evacuation order), it may be too late.''
   A care and reception center was established for displaced residents at
Murrieta Mesa High School. Small animals were being accepted at that
location. Accommodations for larger animals were available at the San Jacinto
Animal Shelter.
   Six Cal Fire air tankers and three water-dropping helicopters made
runs on the blaze, but pulled out by 8 p.m. due to poor visibility.
   Clinton Keith Road was closed south of Avenida La Cresta, and Tenaja
Road was shut down between Via Volcano and Clinton Keith Road for public safety
and to give crews freedom to maneuver.
   A thunderstorm cell moved through the area just prior to the fire, and
it's suspected that a lightning strike ignited it.
   Power lines were reported down at the location.