At Least 1 Home Burned, Evacuations Ordered in 1,700-Acre Summit Fire in Southern Calif.

Air tankers and ground crews are battling the flames fueled by winds of up to 41 mph

By Christina Cocca and Samantha Tata
|  Wednesday, May 1, 2013  |  Updated 9:30 PM CDT
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Wind-Driven Summit Fire Threatens Homes in Banning

Jacob Rascon

At least one home has burned in the Summit Fire on May 1, 2013. This residence, which appeared entirely gutted, is on Mesa Street at Sunset Avenue.

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A wind-driven wildfire that threatened homes in Southern California's Riverside County forced evacuations and road closures Wednesday afternoon, destroying at least one home.

At least 425 firefighters, 46 engine companies, 16 fire crews, six helicopters and six air tankers were sent to control the 1,700-acre two-headed blaze near near Banning, Calif., which sent up thick towers of smoke.

The massive blaze, dubbed the "Summit Fire," was at 0 percent containment as of 4:30 p.m. The fire was still moving quickly on its "right flank," where it was headed toward Cherry Valley and Oak Glen, fire Chief John Hawkins of CAL Fire's Riverside Unit told NBC 4 Southern California.

At least one home burned on Mesa Street at Sunset Avenue (map).

About 500 people had been evacuated, Hawkins said, and had been moved to aid centers.

At least one firefighter suffered minor injuries while battling the blaze. Hawkins said the first responder suffered burns to the face.

Regional air quality regulators issued a smoke advisory for the area around Banning, meaning people should avoid unnecessary outdoor activities anywhere smoke can be seen or smelled.

Hawkins said more crews were being called to battle the blaze in the rolling foothills and canyons.

"We are bringing in everything we can to get a hold on this fire," he said, adding that the area had very difficult access.

Hawkins said there are two "heads" to the fire: one north of Banning that is heading west toward an area north of the neighboring city of Beaumont; and another in the rugged foothills headed in the direction of the apple-growing community of Oak Glen.

Winds began to slow down about 6 p.m.

"We're looking a lot better," Hawkins said at the time, adding that the blaze is still "nowhere near contained."

The Banning Police Department evacuated residents on Indian School Lane near Eighth Street. Roads were closed on Wilson Street between San Gorgonio Road and Highland Springs Avenue. Residents in the Highland Springs Mobile Home Park also have been evacuated.

Banning PD asked residents in the Bench area just north of Banning to remain in their homes because surrounding roads were blocked by fire.

Evacuated residents were ordered to go to the Banning Community Center at 789 N. San Gorgonia Avenue. Evacuation centers for animals were set up in nearby San Jacinto and Beaumont.

Crews from Riverside County Fire Department and CAL Fire worked with multiple agencies — including from as far away as Orange County — to control the wildfire that started near North San Gorgonio Avenue and Summit Drive in Banning (map).

The blaze was reported at 12:38 p.m. at 10 acres. By 6 p.m., it had grown to consume at least 1,700 acres.

"We had an abnormally early start (to the fire season)," Hawkins said. "This is very concerning."

Areas of Southern California on Wednesday were under a red flag warning, or increased wildfire danger, which indicates a dangerous combination of high winds, hot temperatures and low humidity.

NBC 4 Southern California's Tony Shin, Jacob Rascon and Melissa Pamer contributed to this article.


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