Falls Fire grows to 1,500 acres, 20 percent contained


A brush fire that has burned more than 1,500 acres in the Cleveland National Forest was 20 percent contained today.

The so-called Falls Fire was reported around 10 a.m. Monday about five miles west of Lake Elsinore and just south of Ortega (74) Highway. The fire, which was 1,416 acres as of this morning, prompted a mandatory evacuation order for a roughly 50-home development in Decker Canyon and for Lakeland Village, a suburb of Lake Elsinore.

The evacuation order was lifted late Monday night for Lakeland Village but Decker Canyon remains under evacuation, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Vickie Wright said this morning.

The Red Cross opened an evacuation center at Lakeside High School in Lake Elsinore. Basic provisions and shelter were available to all those affected by the fire, officials said.

Wright said fire officials are hoping for full containment by Friday. The cause of the blaze is under investigation. As of this morning, no injuries had been reported but, according to the Press-Enterprise, a few outbuildings were damaged Monday.

By 3 p.m. Monday, the flames were in sight of Lakeland Village. Flames also reached Ortega Highway, prompting the California Highway Patrol to shut down the entire 30-mile route from Lake Elsinore west to Antonio Parkway, just outside San Juan Capistrano.

On Monday, public safety officials closed access to the El Cariso Campground off El Cariso and Main Divide roads, the Wildomar Off-Highway Vehicle Area and the California Wildland Firefighter Memorial.

Forest Service, Riverside County Fire Department and Cal Fire personnel were conducting joint firefighting operations. Wright said 265 people and six water-dropping helicopters were working to contain the fire, and six tanker aircraft were on order.

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