The Silver fire raging in Riverside County, California, has been growing too rapidly for firefighters to contain as it rages through forests and burns down homes.
Officials said the fire was sparked sometime on Wednesday afternoon, and since then has grown to cover 11,000 acres with only 10 percent of the blaze under control.
It still isn’t known exactly what caused the Silver fire, but firefighters were on the scene battling it within an hour of it breaking out and still couldn’t keep it under control. Julie Hutchinson, a battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, happened to be leaving a meeting with other firefighters when she noticed smoke.
“We could clearly see the column developing,” she said. “It just continued to get larger and larger.”
But within two hours the Silver fire had split into two branches, each racing toward Twin Pines Ranch. Along the way the fire burned down at least 15 structures, killed a number of family pets, and left at least one person burned “head to toe.” The victim was airlifted to a hospital, but there was no update on the condition.
Close to 1,500 people in mandatory evacuation zones had been sent away to emergency shelters, but the fire moved so quickly that it cut off roads for some of the homes, forcing them to shelter in place. On Thursday mandatory evacuation orders remained in place for a number of communities, including Twin Pines, Vista Grande, Mt. Edna, Poppet Flats, Silent Valley, and parts of Cabazon.
“I was hoping they would let me back up to get some personal items I knew my husband would forget like a jewelry box and stuff that means stuff,” said Margaret Runnels of Banning, who was forced to leave so quickly that the family left behind a pet cat and rabbit. “You always tell yourself to prepare everything but you never take the stupid time to do it.”
Officials said the Silver fire is being fueled by dry conditions and heavy winds. Battling the blaze is even more difficult given the rugged terrain of the mountainous region.