Firefighters working to contain 250-acre brush fire in Riverside

Tenaja fire
Crews in Riverside were working Saturday evening to contain a brush fire that started in the Sycamore Canyon area earlier in the day. Above, a firefighter shoots water toward a hillside in Murrieta to help with the Tenaja fire, which erupted midweek in Riverside County.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Firefighters were working Saturday evening to contain a 250-acre brush fire that had threatened structures in the city of Riverside earlier in the day, authorities said.

No residents have been evacuated from the Sycamore Canyon area but some left out of caution, said Ryan Railsback, public information officer for the Riverside Police Department.

The fire started in the Sycamore Canyon area after 2 p.m. and fire crews worked to protect structures on the east side of the canyon, including some commercial properties, he said. Roughly 130 firefighters — assisted by three air tankers — are battling the blaze, which was 40% contained at 8 p.m. Saturday, according to the Riverside Fire Department.

Firefighters were able to stop the forward progress of the blaze and no injuries or damage to structures has been reported, according to the Fire Department.

The brush fire burned adjacent to a canyon area scorched by a July blaze, which slowed its growth.

“The fire is moving in the direction of the previous fire and does not have any place to go,” Railsback said. “That’s a positive.”


Authorities issued a closure at Speyside Road and Perthshire Place and urged residents to avoid the area. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is assisting with water drops from a helicopter and the air tankers, Railsback said.

In the southwest corner of Riverside County, the Tenaja fire has charred nearly 2,000 acres and was 40% contained Saturday evening, according to Cal Fire. Erupting Wednesday afternoon, the wildfire forced hundreds of residents in the hillsides near Murrieta to evacuate but they were allowed to return to their homes Friday.

The blaze erupted toward the end of a remarkably calm summer in terms of wildfires.

After two years of devastating wildfires that burned more than 1.8 million acres in 2018 and 1.2 million acres in 2017, as of Aug. 18, only 51,079 acres had burned this year across state and federal lands in California. Late spring rains, cooler summer temperatures and fewer extreme wind events, among other factors, have combined to help keep the state from burning uncontrollably, experts say.

But weary fire officials know that can change at any moment — all it takes is an intense wind event or a prolonged heat wave and then a spark.

In Northern California, the Red Bank fire in rural Tehama County has burned 8,838 acres and was only 15% contained Saturday evening, according to Cal Fire. The wildfire that started Thursday afternoon quickly grew as it burned through brush and oak woodlands about 25 miles west of Red Bluff.

By Friday morning, the fire forced evacuations and road closures, officials said. The Red Bank fire, which officials determined was caused by lightning, is burning in a remote area mostly used for cattle ranching, according to the Tehama County Fire Department.