Firefighters get a handle on the Holy fire, containment jumps to 51%
As the smoke began to clear above Lake Elsinore, firefighters took heart Sunday as they appeared to gain control of the Holy fire, with containment at 51 percent and 22,714 acres consumed.
“I’m just thinking we turned the bend here,” U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Vickie Wright said of the wildfire that had burned out of control for nearly a week.
More fire evacuees got word Sunday they could return to their homes after the blaze that officials say was set Aug. 6 by an arsonist in Orange County.
But a voluntary evacuation was declared for the neighborhood of Trilogy, an unincorporated area built around a golf course next to Glen Ivy Hot Springs, where fire still loomed dangerously.
A San Diego City Fire Department strike team stayed within Trilogy, its sixth day on the Holy fire. Sustained by Red Bull and sunflower seeds, the team has pulled 24-hour shifts and slept on high school football fields.
Capt. Jacob Carothers of the Forest Service said fatigue can be a big issue in fighting wildfires, especially ones like the Holy fire, which has burned in a tough topography that involves a lot of hiking to reach hot spots.
Holy is the fifth fire Carothers has worked since late May.
“You have to slow down and think clearly,” he said. “If you don’t, you’re more likely to make a mistake and get injured.”
Six firefighters have sustained minor injuries in the blaze, the Cleveland National Forest said. Fire has destroyed 14 structures and damaged 10, according to an ongoing assessment. Those homes were mostly in Holy Jim Canyon – a cluster of structures and cabins above Rancho Santa Margarita.
Andrew and Vicky Masotto of Lake Elsinore were effusive in their praise of firefighters on Sunday morning as they received cleaning supplies from the Red Cross to help remove the ash from their home.
“People should go up and say, ‘Thank you very much for saving my home,’” Andrew Masotto said. “Thank you so much for risking your lives for us.”
Masotto said he bought gift cards and handed them to firefighters to show his gratitude.
The couple watched as firefighting aircraft flew low over their home to drop water and retardant.
“It was nothing short of a miracle,” Vicky Masotto said. “It’s more than amazing.”
Evacuations remained in effect in Holy Jim, Trabuco Canyon recreation residence tracts, Blue Jay and Falcon Campgrounds, El Cariso Village, Rancho Capistrano and Glen Eden Canyon, authorities said.
The Forest Service has reduced its estimate of evacuated homes to about 3,698, affecting an estimated 11,120 people, down from 20,000 at the beginning of the weekend.
Highway 74 remains closed in both directions. Glen Eden Road is closed at DePalma Road.
Firefighters on Monday expect relatively cooler weather, with temperatures reaching the low 90s and southwesterly winds of 5 to 10 mph, gusting up to 20 mph. They planned to protect structures and work on fighting the fire’s spread at its north and south perimeters.
Air quality officials warned that unhealthy conditions remained in some areas of Southern California.
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Saturday evening, the evacuation order was lifted for the Machado neighborhood in Lake Elsinore, and voluntary evacuations were no longer in place for the Shoreline community.
Earlier Saturday, evacuations were lifted for the Horsethief Canyon neighborhood in a county area near Corona, as well as the McVicker and Rice Canyon areas in Lake Elsinore.
Evacuation orders for the Sycamore Creek neighborhood and the Lake Elsinore community of Riverside also were lifted Sunday, allowing residents to go home.
The containment percentage grew from 36 percent on Saturday night. Containment is the percentage of the perimeter that firefighters have determined the fire will no longer spread beyond.
The Lake Elsinore Unified School District’s first day of school, which had been set for Monday, was reset to Aug. 20, the school board decided. “The 2018/19 school year calendar will not be extended, so winter and spring breaks, grad dates, and last day of school are unchanged.”
One of the district’s schools, Rice Canyon Elementary, was spared from the fire Thursday as firefighters stopped a blaze that charred the hillside and open country across the street from the school on Lincoln Street, near the intersection of Westwind Drive.
The Corona-Norco Unified School District also announced several schools will delay their opening day from Monday to Aug. 20. The affected schools are south of the 91 freeway and east of Border Avenue in Corona, the district said.
The City of Corona announced a day camp to help working parents of students for the week of Aug. 13 -17, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily. It urged online registration. Fees are $110 for residents and $140 for non-residents, with priority for parents of students at affected schools. The camp will be located at Circle City Center, 365 N. Main St., Corona.
Menifee Union School District schools will be in session Monday, but elementary school back-to-school nights have been rescheduled to Aug. 23. Middle school back-to-school nights will be Aug. 16. The district’s calendar showed first semester classes began Aug. 8.
The district said it has been working to remove ash from the schools, and students will be on a bad-weather schedule that reduces student activity, and can include staying indoors.