A Southern California wildfire fueled by desert winds has burned 2,200 acres (890 hectares) and prompted evacuation orders for 4,000 people in Riverside County, officials said Tuesday (Oct 31).
The Highland Fire nearly doubled in size overnight, pushed west by Santa Ana winds. The seasonal phenomenon occurs when dry desert air blows toward the ocean, creating a fire hazard in Southern California.
The fire was out of control Tuesday morning, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said, with crews attacking the fire on the ground and planes dropping fuchsia-colored retardant.
The Riverside County Fire Department ordered the evacuation of nearly 4,000 people, including the small town of Aguanga, where the fire started on Monday.
Officials opened a refugee center for people and another for animals, while those staying at a recreational vehicle resort brought their campers to a Walmart parking lot in Temecula about 15 miles (25 km) away.
The evacuees said they left the RV resort at the prompting of first responders, who escaped the fire that later entered the site.
“I have to get dog food and usually just get in my van and leave,” Barb Bommarito said.
Robert Duke, 85, said people weren’t sure if an evacuation was necessary, but “it was made mandatory with law enforcement cars driving around with red and blue flashing lights and broadcasting … that we all have to leave.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation, Cal Fire said, adding that the fire is an ongoing threat with several road closures and evacuation orders in place.
Southern California currently has a mild fire year in 2023, after unusually heavy rains that included the first tropical storm to reach heavily populated areas of the state in 84 years.