A wildfire in Southern California, driven by desert winds, scorched 2,200 acres (about 890 hectares) and led to evacuation orders for 4,000 individuals in Riverside County, as reported by officials on Tuesday, October 31.
The Highland Fire nearly doubled in size overnight, pushed to the west by Santa Ana winds. The seasonal phenomenon occurs when dry desert air blows toward the ocean, creating a fire hazard in Southern California.
The fire was unchecked as of Tuesday morning, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said, with crews attacking the blaze on the ground and aircraft dropping fuchsia-colored retardant.
The Riverside County Fire Department ordered the evacuation of roughly 4,000 people, including the small town of Aguanga, where the fire started on Monday.
Officials opened one refugee centre for people and another for animals, while those staying at a resort for recreational vehicles drove their campers to a Walmart parking lot in Temecula about 15 miles (25 km) away.
Evacuees said they left the RV resort at the prodding of first responders, escaping flames that later entered the site.
“I had to grab dog food and basically just get in my van and leave,” said Barb Bommarito.
Robert Duke, 85, said people were uncertain about whether the evacuation was necessary, but “it was made mandatory with law-enforcement cars coming around with red and blue flashing lights and broadcasting … that we should all leave.”
The cause of the fire was being investigated, Cal Fire said, adding that the blaze was a continuing threat with several roads closed and evacuation orders in effect.
Southern California has so far had a mild fire year in 2023, after unusually heavy rainfall that included the first tropical storm to reach heavily populated areas in the state in 84 years.