Around 6,000 people were under evacuation orders today as the Mountain Fire -- having burgeoned to more than 22,800 acres, with containment at 15 percent -- raged in the San Bernardino National Forest near Idyllwild for a fourth day.
Officials Wednesday night ordered evacuations for the Idyllwild and Fern Valley areas east of Highway 243 -- which includes Forest Service land and Mount San Jacinto State Park -- and the Trails End community at the north end of Morris Ranch Road near Garner Valley, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Some 4,100 residences in the evacuation zones, plus 100 commercial properties, are threatened by the blaze, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman John Miller.
The evacuation orders affected about 6,000 people living northwest of the fire zone and were prompted in part by a shift of direction in the prevailing winds, said Melody Lardner, a Forest Service spokeswoman.
Pine Cove, Mountain Center, Idyllwild West and Poppet Flats were not affected by the evacuation orders, which were issued by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and the Idyllwild Fire Protection District.
Miller said the most active parts of the fire are near Red Tahquitz Peak above Idyllwild and near Trails End to the south.
``These two areas will be the focus of today's firefighting activities as both air and ground crews work to slow the rate of spread of the fire,'' Miller said.
Highway 243 was closed from Highway 74 to Interstate 10 in Banning, and Highway 74 was closed from Cranston Station in Hemet to Highway 371, according to Caltrans.
Smoke and ash, meanwhile, continued to bedevil the region. A smoke advisory issued by the South Coast Air Quality was in effect today in parts of the Coachella Valley, Hemet, the San Jacinto Valley, the Banning Pass area and the Anza Area.
There also have been evacuations in the Coachella Valley. Evacuation orders were issued for Andreas Canyon Club, an area of 24 homes south of Palm Canyon Drive in an unincorporated area south of Palm Springs on Tuesday night.
``Protecting the community of Idyllwild, Hemet Lake area and Palm Springs remain a high priority and will be the focus of firefighting efforts,'' Miller said Wednesday night.
A total of 2,985 personnel, 228 engines, a DC-10 and nine other fixed-wing aircraft, 17 helicopters, 21 water tenders and 15 bulldozers were deployed as of this morning, according to the Forest Service.
Two night-flying aircraft continued to make aerial attacks on the blaze overnight, according to the Forest Service.
The Mountain Fire broke in the vicinity of highways 74 and 243 south of Mountain Center around 1:45 p.m. Monday, the cause undetermined. It has destroyed 23 structures, including seven residences on the first day, and was burning at a ``rapid'' rate through timber and chaparral in ``very steep and rugged terrain,'' a Forest Service statement said.
Late Monday afternoon, two dozen area homes were ordered evacuated -- 20 in the Bonita Vista housing community northeast of Lake Hemet and four at nearby Fleming Ranch -- as was the Living Free Animal Sanctuary in Bonita Vista.
Camp Ronald McDonald and Camp Joe Sherman were voluntarily evacuated because of health concerns about air quality.
Evacuation centers have been opened at Hamilton High School in Anza and Hemet and Beaumont high schools, and evacuation centers for animals were set up at Lake Hemet Campground in Garner Valley and the San Jacinto Animal Center, according to the Forest Service.
The Pacific Crest Trail was closed from Highway 74 to Saddle Junction, and all of the trails connecting to the Pacific Crest Trail in the area were closed, as well. Hurkey Creek County Campground and hiking and mountain biking trails out of the campground and May Valley were also closed.
Hwy 74 into Hemet
Hwy 243 into Banning
Hwy 74 South towards Anza, Palm Desert
Hwy 74 will be closed in Hemet, no up bound traffic will be allowed
HWY 243 will be closed in Banning, no southbound traffic will be allowed
HWY 243 will be closed at Mountain Center
HWY 74 closed at HWY 371
Hamilton High School, Anza
Hemet High School, Hemet
Beaumont High School
This also includes the State Park Wilderness, Forest Service Wilderness, Forest Service Campgrounds.
This evacuation notice does not include the areas of Pine Cove, Mountain Center, and Poppet Flat.
The fire was last reported at 22,800 acres, more than 35 square miles of land, with 15% containment. 23 structures have been destroyed by fire including 7 residences during the first day of the fire.
The total cost of fighting the fire so far is 4.5 Million dollars, according to officials.