River bottom fire breaks out in Riverside
The Riverside Fire Department has achieved 50% containment on a vegetation fire that broke out Thursday, Feb. 6, on the Santa Ana Bike Path in the area of Grand Avenue. All evacuation orders have been lifted and no injuries have been reported.
At its inception around 10 a.m., the Riverbottom Fire initially covered only 10 acres. However, as the day went on, high winds spread the fire to 70 acres.
The area affected on the path was quickly closed and evacuations took place on Old Ranch Road, Park Cliff Court and the Dales Senior Center on Chestnut Street.
Two air tankers and a helicopter arrived on scene around 2 p.m. The helicopter could be seen dropping water across the landscape. At 2:25 p.m., because of this air support, residents in the evacuation zones were allowed to return to their homes.
According to a press release issued by the city of Riverside at 8 p.m. the fire was started by humans, with the most probable scenario being an unattended encampment.
As of 9:30 a.m. on Friday, battalion Chief, Bruce Vanderhorst said the department stands by the press release.
“We stand by our public statement,” Vanderhorst said. “(We believe) the fire was unintentional and likely caused by an encampment.”
Andrew Rivera, a 23-year-old Riverside resident who lived in the evacuation zone, said he returned from work to find his street blocked by police.
“I have three cats,” Rivera said. “When the cops let me in, I just hid in my place (with my cats).”
Other residents in the area also got the call to evacuate while away from home. George Gutierrez, a 54-year-old resident of Old Ranch Road, said he came straight home from Ontario to help his wife grab what they needed and leave.
“The police were blocking the roads — we almost didn’t get out,” Gutierrez said. “When we left, we went to the park and we prayed. We said ‘God, we’ve got to trust you.’”
Although as of 10 a.m, Friday morning, the fire was still ongoing, fire crews will continue to address hot spots in the area and expect full containment by late Friday evening, according to an update posted on the fire department’s official Twitter page.