Dave Clark talks to neighbors on the phone as his house in Twin Pines burns in the Silver Fire on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013.
LOS ANGELES (USATODAY.com) -- A fast-moving wildfire exploded in size soon after it
ignited Wednesday afternoon, burning some homes and forcing the
evacuation of dozens of families in Riverside County west of Palm
The fire burned an estimated 5,000 acres -- or nearly 8
square miles -- in four hours after it began shortly after 2 p.m. PT,
said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for Cal Fire, the state department of
forestry and fire protection.
"It has been a very fast moving
fire,'' Berlant said. "It exploded this afternoon, really due to the
fact that conditions are critically dry across California.''
fire was uncontained as night fell, and smoke from burning chaparral and
other brush choked the air in Palm Springs, the desert resort town
about 20 miles to the east of the burning area.
Three people were
injured. One civilian was burned and airlifted to a hospital, U.S.
Forest Service spokesman John Miller said. Two firefighters were also
injured, but details were unavailable, Miller said.
spokeswoman Julie Hutchinson said the wildfire near Banning was blocking
the highway escape route of some residents who were told to shelter in
place. Deputies who were trying to help them evacuate were also forced
It was not clear how many people were involved. Hutchinson said officials were trying to assess how they are doing.
The Desert Sun
of Palm Springs reported multiple structures had burned. One man, Dave
Clark of the Twin Pines community, watched as his house was consumed by
flames while the homes of nearby neighbors were spared.
officials ordered the evacuation of three communities: Poppet Flats,
Twin Pines and Silent Valley. Video images from TV news helicopters
showed several structures burning. Berlant said the evacuation affected
several dozen homes.
An evacuation center was established at a high school in the town of Hemet.
highway 243, which connects the city of Banning on the desert floor
with nearby mountain communities, was closed. The fire was in dry, hilly
terrain about 85 miles east of Los Angeles.
More than 450
firefighters were on the scene, along with more than 70 fire engines,
four air tankers and five helicopters. Fire officials named the blaze
the Silver Fire.
Palm Springs officials said its residents were in
no immediate danger, but that the smoke was affecting visibility at
Palm Springs International Airport, delaying flights into and out of the
Coachella Valley, The Desert Sun reported.
the last half hour the smoke intensity is now affecting visibility and
it is affecting airline flights," said Tom Nolan, executive director of
the airport. "The airport remains open, but it is the individual
airlines that must determine if they can land or not in these
Contributing: The Desert Sun and the Associated Press