A brush fire broke out Sept. 4 at Tenaja Falls in La Cresta, California, and spread rapidly toward Murrieta. The fire encompassed nearly 2,000 acres at its height, with 30 mph winds responsible for the fire’s rapid spread.
The winds died down Sept. 5, allowing firefighters to begin to take control of the fire and slowly increase the containment. The cause of the fire, which burned 1,926 acres of land, is still currently under investigation, according to fire officials.
After burning for roughly a week and a half, the blaze was fully contained Sept. 14, said the Riverside County Fire Department.
Dubbed the Tejana Fire, the flames threatened 2,000 homes in Murrieta, causing all schools in the Murrieta Valley Unified School District to close because of poor air quality and proximity to the fire. Roughly 1,200 people were evacuated from several neighborhoods in the area.
Robin Godfrey, Murrieta public information officer, said the evacuation warning areas were on high alert.
“All of the voluntary evacuation areas (were) under evacuation warning,” Godfrey said. “This means residents should be packed and ready for a likely mandatory evacuation.”
More than 800 different personnel were assigned to the Tenaja Fire, with 594 of them being firefighters, Godfrey said.
The Riverside Office of Public Health put out a health warning as a result of the large amount of smoke blowing toward the valley. The smoke and ash affected the surrounding cities and caused residents to take precautions.
“The smoke was bad enough that we kept all the windows closed at night and our cars had a layer of ash (on them),” Wildomar resident Raymond Lotherington said.
Residents of the surrounding cities including Andrew Ouelette, freshman business administration major, said the community affected by the fire owes much to the vigilant and rapid response by emergency personnel.
“These fires impacted the community as a whole and we appreciate all the hard work the firefighters have done to contain and put out the fire,” Ouelette said.
The damage was primarily kept to the brush and trees on the mountainside, and two structures were damaged. The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve was shut down at the outset of the fire and was scorched by the flames. It is now closed indefinitely.
“The effect (the fire) has had on the community is sad,” said Christian Duhon, senior journalism and new media major. “The Santa Rosa Plateau is a popular hiking destination and is all burned now. People are devastated, considering that is where many people get their daily exercise.”