Full containment expected by Wednesday
The wildfire that has blackened more than 27,000 acres of the San Bernardino National Forest since breaking out a week ago today is expected to be contained on Wednesday, authorities said.
As of mid-morning Monday, the Mountain Fire was 68 percent contained and had scorched 27,265 acres -- numbers virtually unchanged since Sunday night, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Additional thunderstorms and flash flooding were possible through today, following more than 3 inches of rain over the weekend that helped crews make substantial progress in fighting the blaze.
``Firefighters will continue to patrol and monitor the fire perimeter to guard against any potential escape. When conditions permit, crews will continue to construct direct line, mop up and patrol, and engage in suppression repair,'' according to the latest Forest Service update, which noted that efforts would be adjusted to ensure firefighters' safety.
The number of fire personnel was trimmed by nearly half, with 1,861 remaining as of this morning, down from 3,347 on Saturday. The ramping-down included reducing 228 engines to 87; 68 hand crews to 57; and 11 bulldozers to two. Thirteen helicopters remain available if needed, officials said.
The blaze has claimed 23 structures, including seven homes, but no major injuries have been reported.
On Sunday, the evacuations of Idyllwild and Fern Valley were lifted, along with previous evacuation orders. Evacuation centers closed at 8 p.m. Sunday, leaving anyone needing help to contact the American Red Cross.
Highway 243 was reopened in the area, but the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, San Bernardino National Forest and Humber Park remained closed, along with the Pacific Crest Trail and and trails connecting to it.
The fire is believed to have started around 1:45 p.m. a week ago today near the junction of Highways 243 and 74. The 23 structures swallowed by the blaze were all destroyed last Monday.
The cause of the blaze remains under investigation but Jeanne Pincha-Tully, a U.S. Forest Service fire chief, said Thursday the fire had been determined to be ``human-caused.''
The Forest Service has estimated the cost of fighting the fire at $20.1 million.
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