Towering thunderheads produced multiple lightning strikes and intense rain in southwest Riverside County, igniting spot fires from east of Temecula to south of Perris this afternoon, Riverside County fire officials said.
“We’ve had multiple lightning strikes and we don’t even know how many fires we have,” Cheri Patterson of the Riverside County Fire Department said amid the electrical storm about 3 p.m.
The most recent fire was reported in the south Perris-Sun City area, near McCall Boulevard and Murrieta Road, Patterson said. The California Highway Patrol reported a fire in the same area, at Ethanac and Goetz roads.
In Lake Elsinore at West Pottery and North Kellogg streets, electrical lines fell across an RTA shuttle bus at 3:01 p.m., trapping 11 people inside, Riverside County Fire officials and sheriff’s Deputy Melissa Nieburger said. The lines were de-energized, and the people were led out of the vehicle safely about 4:20 p.m.
Firefighters also responded to blazes:
— in the rural Sage area, east of Vail Lake at state Route 79 and Crosley Truck Trail;
— at Sage Road and Wade Lane east of Lake Skinner;
— and Sage Road and Soaring Hawk Road, northeast of Vail Lake.
Patterson said “multiple down strikes with fires” were reported in the same area as “heavy precipitation.”
The anvil-shaped clouds started producing rain, lightning and thunder about 1 p.m. and moved west toward Hemet and San Jacinto, fire and aviation officials in Idyllwild and Hemet said.
The storm front continued moving southwest over Sage and Temecula, and the National Weather service issued flash flood warnings that expired at 3 p.m. for central Riverside County, including Hemet.
“The combination of daytime heating with the moist east and southeast flow set up these thunderstorms,” National Weather Service meteorologist Noel Isla said.
Thunderheads formed over Idyllwild but people in the town center felt only “a mist in the air” at most, Idyllwild Fire Capt. Alan Lott said at 1:45 p.m.
Storm clouds at that time appeared to be moving west over the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley, a Sheriff’s Aviation deputy at the Hemet Ryan airfield said.
Farther north below the San Gorgonio Wilderness, intense rain fell on the slopes above Forest Falls, unleashing and torrent of mud, boulders and debris that flowed onto Valley of the Falls Drive at Prospect Drive, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The mountain roadway was reported blocked about 1 p.m.