Fire officials laid out their plan of attack for battling the Silver fire Friday morning, focusing on the eastern edge of the fire as it burns toward Palm Springs and farther through the San Bernardino National Forest.
Conditions were calm Friday morning, but authorities cautioned that it could change as the day progresses.
“The fire behavior as of this morning looks like it is quite a bit calmer than it was yesterday,” said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Eric Solomon. “But with weather and wind and as the day heats up, that’s always subject to change.”
Solomon said one concern of fire officials is that the blaze could head south and burn farther into the San Bernardino National Forest. The north side of the narrow eastern finger of the fire, which burned Thursday into the night, is desert land, which contains less fuel for the fire to consume.
The winds have blown west to east the past couple days, a pattern that’s expected to continue Friday.
But Solomon said that could change Saturday, with a forecast of “variable winds” -- a dangerous prospect in firefights.
Fire officials urged firefighters to stay safe as they face steep, rocky terrain, citing firefighter deaths in the area in years past.
“Our profession means wanting to ensure that those lives lost were not in vain,” one fire official said.
The blaze’s fury brought back memories of the 2006 Esperanza fire, which consumed 40,200 acres and killed five firefighters in the same area.
The fire grew to 16,000 acres overnight, officials reported Friday. More than 1,400 firefighters had achieved 25% containment.
The Silver fire is the latest sign that 2013 is shaping up to be a particularly damaging wildfire season.
Record dry conditions have left hillsides and canyons like the ones south of Banning particularly susceptible to big burns. Roughly 80,000 acres across the state have burned so far this year, according to CalFire, about double last year’s total at this time.
The area near Banning, Palm Springs and Idyllwild has been especially hard-hit. State officials noted that several fires in that area have now burned with great intensity ahead of the fall, when Santa Ana winds typically cause the most concern about uncontrolled blazes.