In Idyllwild, fire on the mountains has locals and firefighters braced for an epic battle against a wildfire raging out of control just southwest of Palm Springs. The Idyllwild fire has already burned seven homes and forced dozens to evacuate, even displacing a camp serving children with cancer.
The Idyllwild fire is made all the more extreme by temperatures as high as 105 and humidity expected to sink as low as 1 percent by Wednesday afternoon, according to Tina Rose, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. These are critical circumstances as firefighters battle the massive blaze in an area that has not burned in many years.
"I was here at sun-up and the fire was burning like it was 3 o'clock in the afternoon. This is extreme fire behavior," Rose said. Due to dry conditions and abundance of vulnerable trees left untouched by fire for so long, she explained, "the slightest little spark is going to make a run and torch trees. It's just so bone dry."
The Idyllwild fire has wreaked major damage on properties in the area, according to a statement released by the U.S. Forest Service Tuesday. At the time of the statement, the blaze had destroyed three houses, three mobile homes, a cabin, a garage, about a half-dozen vehicles, eleven outbuildings, five commercial buildings and several smaller structures.
Raging now over more than 22 square miles, the wildfire began Monday near the rural Riverside County community of Mountain Center between Palm Springs and Hemet. The fire doubled its size between late Monday and early Tuesday, challenging firefighters who fought to contain the blaze in fickle conditions. "It's a rapidly changing animal," said Forest Service spokesman Lee Beyer.
Fortunately, the Idyllwild fire was said to be moving mostly east toward the desert, away from the small communities in the San Jacinto mountains. Still, that could change as quickly as the wind, and authorities remain vigilant.
The Idyllwild fire has caused the closure of two state highways and the Pacific Crest Trail. One of the highways was reopened Wednesday.