Firefighters on Thursday, Nov. 2, expected to make more progress in containing the Highland fire in Aguanga as winds from the ocean were forecast to increase the humidity in the light grasses and medium-sized shrubs that have been burning since Monday in rural southwest Riverside County.
“It’s going to aid in the control and allow us to button up this fire and get home,” Justin McGough, a spokesman for Riverside County incident command, said in a video briefing.
Crews on Wednesday were able to strengthen the hold on the east end of the fire by scratching out lines with hand tools. They planned to return with fire hoses to continue the job, McGough said.
“There is still quite a bit of hot material on the east end of the fire,” McGough said.
The fire had burned 2,487 acres as of Thursday morning and was 25% contained. Containment refers to the percentage of a fire’s perimeter that has been surrounded by a control line or natural barriers such as a pond that officials believe the flames will not cross.
But the flames had diminished enough that officials at the scene said air tankers would not be required for operations on Thursday. Two helicopters were doing mop-up work along the fire lines.
#HighlandFire 11/2/2023 | Day Operations Section Chief, Justin McGough, provides an update from today’s morning operational briefing:
Evacuation Map: https://t.co/PDAXaQ7bZl
CAL FIRE/RVC Fire: https://t.co/zegCDxU27r
— CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department (@CALFIRERRU) November 2, 2023
Seven structures were reported destroyed and six were damaged. Four residents have confirmed to Southern California News Group that their homes burned down, including the residence of a retired couple.
Jose Quiñonez, 34, said in an interview Thursday that he was not home when the flames approached his father’s house where Jose lived. Brother Eduardo was moving in and called Jose and asked what he should grab from the doublewide trailer that sits on 5 acres.
“I said, ‘Dude, grab my laptop and get out of there,’ ” Jose Quiñonez said.
His Pokemon card collection, which he estimated was worth $5,000, was left behind.
“I went back yesterday,” Quiñonez said. “There was nothing left.”
The home across the street where the father lives was not damaged.
“At the end of the day, nobody got hurt,” Quiñonez said. “That’s all that matters.”
The Highland fire erupted about 12:40 p.m. Monday in the area of Highlands and Aguanga Ranchos roads, near the junction of highways 79 and 371. Some evacuations and road closures remained in effect Thursday. The cause was under investigation.
For updates, follow Cal Fire at @calfirerru on X, formerly known as Twitter.