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Southern California residents are forced to evacuate as the Highland Fire rages

A firefighter and resident converse on how to protect his possessions as a wildfire called the Highland Fire burns in Aguanga, Calif., on Monday.
Ethan Swope
/
AP
A firefighter and resident converse on how to protect his possessions as a wildfire called the Highland Fire burns in Aguanga, Calif., on Monday.

Updated November 1, 2023 at 6:00 PM ET

A Southern California wildfire that began on Monday is now burning nearly 2,500 acres and has prompted the evacuation of thousands of residents.

The Highland Fire, located outside the city of Temecula, took just one day to double in size, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire.

But officials said Wednesday that the blaze in Riverside County, which is currently 2,487 acres in size and only 15% contained, did not grow since the previous evening.

Still, Cal Fire operations section day chief Justin McGough said Wednesday that evacuation orders and warnings remain in place, and that the fire has damaged some infrastructure, including power lines and guardrails, which can be a hazard to the public.

Luis Quinonez talks to a neighbor on the phone while surveying the damage to his property after the Highland Fire passed through Tuesday in Aguanga.
Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP
/
AP
Luis Quinonez talks to a neighbor on the phone while surveying the damage to his property after the Highland Fire passed through Tuesday in Aguanga.

Cal Fire spokesperson Maggie Cline De La Rosa said in a video message Tuesday that the agency had adequate resources to fight the fire but urged residents to stay alert.

"We just ask that the public please remain vigilant," she said. "If you received an evacuation order, please leave. If you received an evacuation warning, please continue to pay close attention to those."

Some 4,270 residents were facing mandatory evacuation orders, while another 3,976 residents were under evacuation warnings, Reuters reported.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Seven structures were destroyed and six were damaged, while another 2,356 were threatened, Cal Fire said. One firefighter was injured.

Firefighters hold hose line while battling the Highland Fire in Aguanga on Monday.
Ethan Swope / AP
/
AP
Firefighters hold hose line while battling the Highland Fire in Aguanga on Monday.

Aguanga resident Carol Rogers told the Los Angeles Times that she didn't know the severity of the fire until she was forced to hurriedly evacuate Monday afternoon.

"I didn't realize it was that bad until I went outside and couldn't breathe," Rogers told the newspaper. "Nobody came to tell us."

According to Cal Fire, easterly winds blowing through the area could continue to push the fire west and southwest, and humidity and winds in the forecast could increase the risk of "erratic fire behavior." Firefighters are encountering steep and rugged terrain as they battle the blaze, officials said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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