PALM SPRINGS, CA – A fire broke out in the highest parking lot for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and continued smoldering Tuesday afternoon in upper reaches on the east side of rugged Chino Canyon, a Forest Service spokesman said. The fire has spread to an estimated 60 acres.
The fire was first reported in the employee parking lot of the tram’s station, began just before 1:40 p.m., Tuesday.
There were 200 personnel assigned and many of them were working on the steeps at 5 p.m. to get to active fire and hot spots, which helicopter and tanker pilots managed to box in with retardant earlier Tuesday, John Miller of the San Bernardino National Forest said.
Assigned resources included 7 engines, 4 airtankers, 1 air attack, 2 helicopters, and 6 hand crews.
“Due to the steep terrain, this fire will mostly be handled by hand crews and helicopter water drops,” the latest Forest Service incident report states.
The fire was on federal land but Palm Springs Fire Department personnel were investigating the cause and Cal Fire-Riverside County personnel were assisting, Miller said.
Ridgetop winds were light and stronger winds were evident deeper in the canyon.
Fuels for the fire were burning among the abundant rock and rock formations that dominate Chino Canyon. There was no threat to the tram’s utilities, towers, buildings or other infrastructure as of 5:15 p.m., Miller said.
Some visitors were up at the Mountain Station and out further in parts of San Jacinto Mountain wilderness that remained open in spite of the 43-square-mile Mountain Fire burn area, and they were evacuated by tram personnel.
By 3:30 p.m. there were no civilian vehicles left in the tram parking lots, Miller said.
Tram Spokeswoman Lena Zimmerschied said earlier the tram would remain closed for Tuesday and a decision on Wednesday would depend on the fire.