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Lightning Sparks Wildfires Above Coachella Valley

Multiple wildfires started by lightning strikes grew to 1,500 acres today in rural areas near Hemet and Murrieta.

Thunderstorms on Thursday hurled lightning and blasting winds west of the San Jacinto Mountains, igniting and fueling multiple fires that destroyed at least one mobile home and prompted a rescue that injured three deputies and a woman.

The rescue occurred during the Don Juan fire, reported at 4:12 p.m. Thursday in the 18200 block of Don Juan Street in Lake Elsinore, said Cheri Patterson of the Riverside County Fire Department.

Three deputies rescued a woman in her 70s from a 20-foot travel trailer that was destroyed, according to sheriff’s officials.

“All three deputies and the woman suffered smoke inhalation,” Riverside County sheriff’s Deputy Herlinda Valenzuela said. “One of the deputies suffered minor burns. They were all hospitalized for treatment.”

The largest blaze today was the Skinner fire east of Murrieta and Temecula, where more than 970 acres had burned and the fire was considered 10 percent contained, Patterson said.

The fire was reported at 3:42 p.m. Thursday at Crown Valley and De Portola roads near the Lake Skinner Recreation Area.

The lightning ignited at least five fires between 3 p.m. and 4:15 p.m., according to the Riverside County Fire Department. Patterson said the active blazes were the Skinner, Cactus and Saddle fires.

The 490-acre Cactus fire in the 32800 block of Red Mountain Road, east of Lake Skinner forced the closure of several roads, including state Route 371. The fire was considered 30 percent contained.

The 70-acre Saddle fire at Red Mountain Road and Oak Glen Road, south of Hemet, on the edge of the San Bernardino National Forest, destroyed one outbuilding and prompted mandatory evacuations that were lifted Thursday night. The fire was considered 80 percent contained.

The fires were concentrated in rural areas, Riverside County Fire Department Capt. Fernando Herrera said.

The thunderstorm activity erupted during a day of high humidity and scorching temperatures in the Inland Empire. More of the same heat and humidity is expected today.

KESQ News Team

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