Helicopters attack Mountain fire; some evacuation orders lifted
Water-dropping helicopters were making assaults on the massive Mountain Fire Thursday night as evacuation orders were lifted for two areas no longer threatened by flames.
Residents were being allowed to return to the Apple Canyon and Bonita Vista areas, and Highway 74 was open to traffic, the U.S. Forest Service said.
The blaze, which has been raging out of control in the San Jacinto Mountains, still continued to threaten the resort town of Idyllwild, which was under a mandatory evacuation order, fire officials said.
Crews were hoping to take advantage of cooler nighttime temperatures and rising relative humidity in their efforts to contain the wildfire burning in rugged, steep terrain.
They were being aided by U.S. Forest Service contract helicopters that were making repeated water drops Thursday night, said agency spokesman Sheldon Keafer.
Much of the fire activity has been within the perimeter of the blaze, which has charred 22,800 acres in the San Bernardino National Forest.
The blaze “has been creeping along the edges,” Keafer told The Times.
The fire broke out Monday afternoon as flames raced across dry chaparral, underbrush and trees. The fire was 15% contained Thursday night. Investigators said they believed the blaze was man-made but had not determined a precise cause.
More that 3,300 firefighters were battling the blaze. Earlier Thursday, they were assisted by 19 helicopters and 10 aerial tankers. Three firefighters were treated for minor injuries.
Thick clouds of smoke prompted officials to close the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The South Coast Air Quality Management District issue a smoke advisory Thursday for areas including Hemet, Anza and parts of the Coachella Valley.
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