Silver Fire explodes in size; causes evacuations

(Photo: Frank Bellino, The Press-Enterprise, via AP)
(Photo: Frank Bellino, The Press-Enterprise, via AP)


PALM SPRINGS – A fast-moving wildfire exploded in size soon after it ignited Wednesday afternoon, burning some homes and forcing the evacuation of dozens of families in Riverside County west of Palm Springs.

“It has grown significantly since [that estimate was given],” Cal Fire Division Chief Kevin Gaines told Banning-Beaumont Patch just before 2 a.m. while out in Cabazon.  “But at nighttime it’s hard for us to map it, so I do feel that it is considerably larger than that, but I don’t have an accurate map or acreage at this time.”

Fire crews working through the night focused part of their attention at the north flank of the Silver Fire, as it crept closer to Cabazon, where additional evacuations were ordered just after midnight.

Though the last official size estimate of the fast-moving blaze was estimated at 6,000 acres, it is believed the fire is now much larger than that.

Portions of Cabazon are now under mandatory evacuation orders, according to Cal Fire. Now that mandatory evacuations have been called for Poppet Flats, Silent Valley, Twin Pines, Vista Grande, Mt. Edna and the southeast portion of Cabazon, Gaines says a “rough estimate” of total evacuated residences is about 250.

The chief said there were approximately 1,000 personnel assigned to the incident as of early Thursday morning, and some of those firefighters were working to light backfires to stop the Silver Fire from getting to those Cabazon homes.

“The fire continues to burn towards the east, towards Cabazon,” Gaines said. “Right now we have engine crews doing some backfire operations on the north edge of the fire to tie it into the Smith Creek wash area from Cabazon all the way to Highway 243.”

Gaines said that the area burning hasn’t burned since the October 2006 Esperanza Fire in the San Gorgonio Pass that killed five U.S. Forest Service firefighters.