The rapidly spreading Highland Fire burns in Aguana, California, on Oct. 31, 2023. DAVID SWANSON / AFP via Getty Images
Founded in 2005 as an Ohio-based environmental newspaper, EcoWatch is a digital platform dedicated to publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions.
The Highland Fire outside of the Southern California city of Temecula has doubled in size since Monday and is now burning on 2,847 acres. The wildfire is only 10 percent contained, according to officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), reported NPR.
Thousands of Riverside County residents have been asked to evacuate.
“We just ask that the public please remain vigilant,” said Maggie Cline De La Rosa in a video message, as NPR reported. “If you received an evacuation order, please leave. If you received an evacuation warning, please continue to pay close attention to those.”
According to Cal Fire spokesperson Thomas Shoots, mandatory evacuation orders were given for 4,270 residents, reported Reuters.
One center for animals was open, with another for evacuees. People staying at a recreational vehicle (RV) resort drove their campervans about 15 miles to a Temecula Walmart and other local parking lots.
The fire eventually reached the RV park.
“I had to grab dog food and basically just get in my van and leave,” said Barb Bommarito, as Reuters reported.
Several roads were closed as the wildfire, which is being investigated, continued to threaten the area.
It has been a mild year for wildfires in Southern California in a season that included heavy rainfall from the region’s first tropical storm in 84 years.
Cal Fire said three structures had been destroyed, six were damaged and another 2,356 were threatened, reported NPR.
One firefighter was injured and taken to the hospital, where it was reported that he was in stable condition, Cline De La Rosa said, as The New York Times reported.
“I didn’t realize it was that bad until I went outside and couldn’t breathe,” Carol Rogers, a resident of Aguaga, told the Los Angeles Times. “Nobody came to tell us.”
The blaze was being tackled from the ground and air by more than 1,100 firefighters, Cal Fire said. Dry conditions with wind gusts of 50 miles per hour were making the situation more challenging.
“We’re looking at single-digit humidity this afternoon,” said Philip Gonsalves, meteorologist with the San Diego weather service, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. “From a weather perspective, conditions are favorable for fire growth.”
Cal Fire said the fire could be pushed west and southwest by easterly winds, adding that the forecast winds and humidity could increase a risk of “erratic fire behavior,” as firefighters battled the fire in steep, rugged terrain, NPR reported.
“These strong winds can cause major property damage. They also increase wildfire risk because of the dryness of the winds and the speed at which they can spread a flame across the landscape,” the weather service said, as reported by The New York Times.