MORONGO VALLEY, Calif. - The Hathaway Fire near Banning has grown to 3,520 acres with 43 percent containment. While the fire is in a remote area, smoke continues to billow out of the San Gorgonio wilderness and into neighboring communities. Several helicopters perform water drops to try and get a handle on the blaze. More than 1,400 firefighters are battling the flames. "It's kind of smoky here at night," said Travis Mayfield, a Morongo Valley resident. "We don't really have smoke on the ground, but you've got it in the air, you can see the haze, you can smell it."
Despite the off and on smoky air, he and Paul Weiss spent time exercising on the trails near their homes. "It's got everyone kind of hazy," said Weiss. "There's so much smoke coming in, it actually had us kind of sleepy it actually had the horses acting up."
The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory, warning people in Morongo and Yucca Valley up to Big Bear Lake about the unhealthy air. With winds on the way, a Forest Service spokesman thinks the bad air could even reach Desert Hot Springs. "The older people, it's not really good air for them to be breathing," said Mayfield. "They need to stay inside, and keep themselves hydrated and stuff like that. If they have any problems they need to call 911, don't hesitate."
Mayfield's not only concerned about the air. He's keeping a close eye on the fire and changing winds. Hot conditions paired with dry fuels on trees and at their feet have Morongo residents weary of an active fire season, something not uncommon for the area. "We had one here a couple, three years ago, the Sawtooth fire, it took everything out in Yucca all the way up to Big Bear," said Mayfield.
"It is a tight little community and we hope everything's going to be okay," said Weiss.
Firefighters expect full containment by June 25.