Crews work overnight to contain wildfire near Lake Perris

After examining a wildfire burning near Lake Perris from the air, authorities say it is not quite as large as they originally thought.

The fire was reported after 8:30 p.m. Wednesday near Merwin Street and Campbell Avenue in Moreno Valley, with initial reports putting it at 30 acres and growing, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Soon the Merwin fire was reported to be 175 acres as flames raced overnight past the tops of ridges and up steep, rocky hillsides, said Jody Hagemann, a spokeswoman for CalFire.


"It burned very quick and very clean last night with drought conditions," she said. "With the high heat and temperatures and no rain, they want to get a line around that as soon as possible.… Fire behavior is often unpredictable."

The amount of ground charred by the fire was downgraded early Thursday to 150 acres.

More than 240 firefighters – including about 50 inmates – worked through the night setting up defensive lines within the Lake Perris State Recreation Area and have slowed the fire's spread, Hagemann said.

At least one campground in the recreation area was evacuated but the evacuation order has since been lifted. The fire is not threatening any homes, Hagemann said. Two firefighters injured their ankles on the rocky terrain and the cause of the fire is under investigation, officials said.

A second wildfire in Southern California, the Lake fire in the San Bernardino National Forest, is 70% contained and has burned 31,359 acres, the U.S. Forest Service said. That fire started June 17 and has cost more than $35 million to fight, officials said.

Hailey Branson-Potts contributed to this report.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.