Riverside County fire grows to 1,933 acres but evacuation warning is lifted

Firefighters are seen in silhouette on a hillside, with smoke and flames in the background.
Firefighters battle the Cerritos fire near the Riverside County community of Nuevo on Dec. 3. On Sunday, crews in the county battled another dangerous blaze, the Sanderson fire.

Authorities lifted an evacuation warning Sunday for a small number of Riverside County residents as a wind-driven wildfire that broke out overnight burned through 1,933 acres of rugged terrain south of Beaumont.

An attack by ground crews, air tankers and helicopters stopped the forward spread of the flames before midday, but firefighters were still struggling to contain the edges of the blaze, officials said.

“It’s no longer growing,” said Tawny Cabral, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Riverside County Fire Department. “Now, we work on further containment.”

No injuries or structural damage were reported. The evacuation warning centered on fewer than a dozen homes north of Gilman Springs Road and south of Timothy Lane, Cabral said. Authorities lifted it at 12:45 p.m. The fire was 24 % contained by Sunday evening.

By noon, smoke from the fire had created unhealthful air conditions down the I-15 corridor, from Corona to Lake Elsinore and beyond, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District.


Dubbed the Sanderson fire, the blaze erupted near Laborde Canyon Road around 1 a.m., officials said. Winds of up to 30 mph pushed it through the canyons. About 130 firefighters battled the flames on the ground with the help of six air tankers and three helicopters.

Cabral said the retardant- and water-dropping aircraft were crucial to the effort. “The terrain has been difficult,” she said. “There aren’t roads that go back into those areas.”

As of Sunday, California had been struck by 9,639 fire incidents, burning 4.1 million acres, killing 31 people and damaging or destroying more than 10,400 structures, according to Cal Fire.

December fires are not unusual in the Inland Empire and other parts of Southern California. Earlier this month, the Cerritos fire broke out near the rural community of Nuevo in Riverside County, prompting evacuations. That followed two other early December fires in Riverside County and the Bond fire in Orange County.