Mecca vegetation fire chases migrant workers from camps

Fire caused power outage at mobile home park

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MECCA, Calif. - A 30-acre brush fire in Mecca prompted authorities to cut power to local residents Thursday but was contained without anyone hurt, fire officials said. There was some homeless people in the area and some migrant workers as well.

Photos: KESQ & CBS Local 2 crew rescues 'Smokey the Cat' in aftermath of Mecca brush fire, cat being cared for at Animal Samaritans

Although the cause of the fire is still under investigation, officials at the scene said all signs are pointing toward the homeless camp, according to KESQ's Jeremy Chen.

The fire broke out at 2:50 a.m. at a palm grove near Avenue 66 and Highway 111, said April Newman of the Riverside County Fire Department. The fire grew to 15 acres by 6 a.m., threatening Imperial Irrigation District power poles in the area. The utility shut off the power lines due to the fire threat, cutting power to several hundred residents at the Saint Anthony Mobile Home Park, officials said.

Read: Special Report from KESQ Chief Meteorologist Haley Clawson - This year's record rainfall could fuel damaging wildfires

The American Red Cross and Riverside County's Emergency Management Department were called in to help the mobile home park residents, as well as several transients who lived in the palm grove, Newman said.

More than 50 firefighters on scene faced gusts of up to 15 mph while they attempted to contain the flames. At 8 a.m., the blaze was contained at 30 acres in heavy brush and palm trees.

Fire officials were expected to remain on scene until at least noon, Newman said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Fire investigators believe it may have had something to do with the homeless people living in the area. KESQ and CBS Local 2 will deliver updates when we hear back from Cal Fire.

View Photos: brush fire scorches 30 acres in Mecca

The Imperial Irrigation District said power service was restored to the Saint Andrews Mobile Home Park.
Original Story follows:

Firefighters said no structures were threatened early Thursday morning as a vegetation fire spread in an old palm grove.

Riverside County Firefighters were called to Avenue 66 near Highway 111 on the southwest side of Mecca at 2:50 a.m.

Imperial Irrigation District workers were called to the scene because of some compromised power poles near the fire.

IID crews de-energized the power lines due to the fire threat, which also cut power to the nearby Saint Anthony Mobile Home Park just east of the fire.

CalFire said several hundred residents of the mobile home park were impacted by the outage.

CalFire Chief Fernando Hererra said a number of homeless people and large number of migrant farm workers  also lived in the area and had to flee the flames.

Hererra said many people lost personal belongings in the fire and were being directed to a nearby AM/PM gas station where firefighters were calling in for assistance.

The American Red Cross and the Riverside County Emergency Management Department were also being called in, to help those forced from their camp sites during the fire.

Firefighters requested law enforcement to close Avenue 66 as they worked to contain a fire burning in a number of palm trees.

The California Highway Patrol said, State Highway 195 was also closed between Highway 111 and State Route 86.

Firefighters said the fire grew from approximately two to four acres in size up to 15 acres, and was burning at a moderate rate of spread.

There were no immediate threats to any structures, and firefighters were setting back fires to remove fuel.

Moderate winds were creating some concerns, blowing at approximately 10 miles per hour, with gusts up to 15 miles per hour.

Firefighters were holding the fire west of Lincoln Avenue, south of Avenue 66, and north of Avenue 67.

Fernando Hererra from CalFire said a mobile home to the south could be threatened if the fire advances.

Winds were sending hot ambers across Avenue 66. 

They expected to have resources committed for several hours.

Hererra said 60 firefighters were on the scene. A bull dozer cut a fire line around the active fire area.

Firefighters were expected to be working in the area for several hours.

KESQ News Channel 3 / CBS Local 2 news has a crew at the scene and will bring you live reports on air this morning.

Watch LIVE coverage here.

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