A wildfire raging on in Riverside County has charred 11,000 acres and damaged at least 15 structures, including homes. The so-called Silver Fire broke out around 2 p.m. Wednesday near Banning, sending more than 1,500 residents fleeing to mandatory evacuation zones around the city, which is located in the San Gorgonio Pass. The blaze is currently 10% contained.
Four firefighters have been injured along with one civilian. The civilian victim, who suffered serious burns, was airlifted to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton.
Evacuation orders remain in place for Poppet Flats, Silent Valley, Twin Pines, Twin Pines Ranch, Vista Grande, Mt. Edna, and the extreme south end of Cabazon. The fire began around Poppet Flats Road near Highway 243, south of Banning. The cause is still unknown.
Smoke from the fire, as well as the Falls Fire near Cleveland National Forest, has prompted the the South Coast Air Quality Management District to issue a smoke advisory for portions of Lake Elsinore, Perris Valley, San Jacinto Valley, Coachella Valley, Temecula Valley, and the San Gorgonio Pass. "Everyone should avoid any vigorous outdoor or indoor exertion," an alert read, "people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children should remain indoors."
County officials proclaimed a local emergency Thursday, enabling possible funding from the state and federal government. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has already approved some funds to go toward recovering money spent in the immediate suppression of the fire.
Concerned about the intersection of climate change and federal spending cuts known as the sequester, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer has been speaking out. She resides in nearby Rancho Mirage and hours before the Silver Fire broke out, was in an exclusive interview with The Desert Sun: "It means the fire season is coming 30 days earlier and it's ending 30 days later and we have these mindless across-the-board cuts called sequester and that's something else that has to be restored," she said. "They're cutting money for firefighters when we're having more fires and more problems."
More: For campground and recreation-related closures, check out outdoors blog SoCal Wanderer.