Man Arrested On Arson Charges For Uncontrolled Cranston Fire. Idyllwild And Other Communities Under Evacuation

The Cranston Fire, seen near Idyllwild on Wednesday, broke out about noon and quickly grew to 1,200 acres. (Photo courtesy of San Bernardino National Forest)

A fast-moving brush fire in San Bernardino National Forest prompted authorities to expand their evacuation orders to all of Idyllwild, Pine Cove and Fern Valley on Wednesday. Previously the evacuations were limited to southwest Idyllwild.

CalFire officials late Wednesday confirmed the arrest of Brandon N. McGlover, 32, of Temecula, for allegedly setting multiple fires, including the one that became the Cranston Fire that has burned at least five homes.

That fire broke out about noon. By 9 p.m. burned 4,700 acres had burned and the fire was still completely uncontained, according to forest officials.

County officials declared a local emergency, the first step in a process for obtaining outside funds for assistance. The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory warning of unhealthy air impacting Perris Valley, Anza, Hemet and the San Jacinto Valley, Banning Pass and Coachella Valley.


WHERE TO GET UPDATES

Note: This story is no longer being updated. For the latest information about the fire, you can call (909) 383-5688 or try one of the links below:


Highway 74 was closed from Cranston Fire Station to Lake Hemet, and Highway 243 was closed between Pine Cove and Mountain Center.

An evacuation center was set up at Banning High School for residents and small animals and to help reunify campers. A large animal shelter was also set up at San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus, according to Riverside County Animal Services.

Campgrounds in Idyllwild were also under evacuation orders, including Idyllwild Arts, Camp Maranatha, Idyllwild Pines, AstroCamp, Camp Emerson and Tahquitz Pines, according to the volunteer organization Mountain Disaster Preparedness, which runs the website idyllwildemergency.com.

A message posted to outdoor science school AstroCamp said that all campers and staff had been safely relocated to Banning High School.

All guests had also left Tahquitz Pines, which said on Facebook that the property was clear.

Camp Emerson was also empty of campers and staff were evacuated down the mountain, according to the Inland Empire Council for Boy Scouts of America.

The tower of smoke belching skyward and seen for miles elicited comparisons from some on social media to the mushroom cap that follows a nuclear blast.

UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain pointed out the fire-born cloud known as a pyrocumulus could produce its own unpredictable winds and, potentially, lightning strikes.

Steve Proffitt, whose home is in the mandatory evacuation zone, said it was quickly clear the danger was real. He could smell smoke, saw an orange glow and ash began to fall on his property. Proffitt got important papers ready

"I grabbed my 1965 Gibson J-45 guitar and threw those in the car," he said. Then he watered down his place and waited. A little before 2 p.m., he said an officer came by with a megaphone saying: "Mandatory evacuation. Get out."

Proffitt headed to an evacuation center at Banning High where he said hundreds of kids attending camps in the area are waiting for their parents.

"It's kind of a scene here," he said.

At its peak, some 500 campers found their way to the site, most minors. About 95 campers and, 50 camp staffers 14 evacuees from the community were expected to spend the night at the high school.

Felicia Adkins with the Banning Unified School District says the school district is simply hosting evacuees. She said the Department of Public and Social Services is handling most of the aid work.

"We're an evacuation site, but they're handling everything, ordering food, caring for campers," she said. "We're just here to help out."

Richard Minnich, a professor of earth sciences at UC Riverside, has been warning for years that this area was long overdue for a fire of this magnitude:

"Idyllwild has last burned in the 1880s, possibly," said Minnich, who specializes in fire ecology. "And the fire should be around 50 years but it's gone a lot longer than that."

KPCC's Fire Tracker has answers to some frequently asked questions about wildfires.

Kyle Stokes contributed to this report from Banning

UPDATES:

This story updated with new information over the day.

This article originally published at 2:10 p.m.


News happens every day. Here at LAist, our goal is to cover the stories that matter to you and the community you live in. Now that we're part of KPCC, those stories (including this one you're on right now!) are made possible by generous people like you. Independent, local journalism isn't cheap, but with your support we can keep delivering it. Donate now.