Fast-moving brush fire in dry riverbed forces evacuations in Norco

Fire crews get a handle on a brush fire, dubbed the Mann fire, that broke out in Norco on Tuesday,
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

A brush fire that broke out in the Santa Ana River bottom in Norco on Tuesday morning has stopped growing after tearing through 175 acres and temporarily forcing nearby residents to evacuate.

The blaze, dubbed the Mann fire, was reported at 9:51 a.m. along a section of riverbed near California Avenue and Grulla Court. The fire, which was initially reported to be about 10 acres, quickly chewed through heavy, dry brush in the area and swelled to 100 acres in less than two hours, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

It stopped growing by midafternoon, and authorities lifted evacuation orders west of California Avenue and north of 8th Street. As of 6:45 p.m., residents north of North Drive and east of California Avenue remained under an evacuation warning.

Two people suffered injuries that were not life-threatening. Five properties sustained minor damage to fencing and outbuildings, authorities said.

(Paul Duginski / Los Angeles Times)

The homes sit in a city known for its equestrian trails and properties, officials said.

Evacuation centers have been set up at Corona High School and Corona Jurupa Valley High School. Residents with large animals are being told to go to the George Ingalls Equestrian Event Center.


Students from nearby Riverview Elementary School were evacuated from the campus shortly after noon and were taken by bus to Norco High School, school officials wrote in a message to parents.

The Jurupa Valley Unified School District said several of its schools were put on an “inclement weather schedule” because of smoke from the fire. Norco High School and Roosevelt High School in Eastvale canceled outdoor sports for the day.

More than 200 firefighters responded to battle the blaze amid winds gusting up to 25 mph. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

Television images showed firefighters spraying down trees and homes near the fire as strong winds whipped through the area. A helicopter made water drops, and smoke was visible across Riverside County.

A high-wind warning, which expired at noon, was in effect for the Norco area at the time the fire broke out. Northeast winds were gusting between 15 and 25 mph in the area shortly after noon as temperatures climbed to the high 70s.

“The winds are starting to die down,” said Jimmy Taeger, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego. “Hopefully, this means things will be getting better soon for firefighters.”

Large swaths of California are facing the driest combined January and February on record, and many areas of the state already have relatively dry vegetation. Corona Municipal Airport, roughly five miles from Norco, saw only a trace amount of precipitation during the first two months of the year.

Officials with the weather service in Los Angeles wrote on Twitter that the fire is “an indication of how dry it is getting in SoCal without significant rainfall in the past two months.”