A firefighter fights a wildfire in Riverside County.
A firefighter fights a wildfire in Riverside County. (Credit: CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department via YouTube)

Riverside County Fire Chief Bill Weiser last week provided supervisors with an update on the county’s response to a series of wildfires throughout the county earlier this month.

The series of wildfires started on the afternoon of July 14 with the Reche Fire, which Weiser said started with a structure fire in the 9400 block of Reche Canyon, an unincorporated area of the county near Moreno Valley. Roughly two hours later, the Highland Fire broke out near the intersection of Highland Springs and Breckenridge avenues in the community of Banning. About an hour later, the Rabbit Fire broke out near the intersection of Alessandro Boulevard and Jack Rabbit Trail in the Lakeview community.

“We had one trailer that was destroyed and sadly enough, there was a civilian that was severely burned,” Weiser said of the Rabbit Fire. “At the origin of the fire was part of the start of that fire, because there was a vehicle fire that was involved.”

The final fire from Weiser’s update was the Gavilan Fire, which was reported on the afternoon of July 15 at Gavilan Road in an unincorporated area of the county near Perris.

The four fires combined burned a total of 9,163 acres, with the Rabbit Fire accounting for most of that with 8,283 acres burned.

“During that same time, Riverside County fire responded to 548 emergencies on July 14 and an additional 592 emergencies on July 15,” Weiser said. “Many of those were structure fires as well as small fires that we consider 2-10 acres.

Wieser also recognized the other agencies that showed up in force earlier this month to help Riverside County firefighters contain all four blazes burning at the same time, including the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, the Riverside County Emergency Management Department as well as local and regional fire departments who immediately responded to help with the firefight.

“There were no other large fires burning throughout the region as well throughout the state,” Weiser said. “So our access and availability of equipment was quick, and we got a lot of it.”

Bruce Barton, director of the county’s Emergency Management Department, echoed Weiser’s sentiments, adding in the work of the county’s Department of Public Social Services for finding shelter for firefighters, area school districts for getting emergency shelters open and the work of the county’s Department of Animal Services.

“They were present at all of the shelters and were able to accommodate if people brought their pets to those shelters … taking them to the animal shelter where they were taken care of,” he said. “And that’s both small and large animals.”

Weiser also reminded the board that there are things individual property owners could do to decrease their fire risk.

“We still need people’s help to clear around their homes,” he said. “We need people to get that brush and grass reduced around so that our firefighters can be safe, and we can be as successful as we can to save people’s homes.”

Barton said there was no doubt the county would experience more fires, power outages, public safety power shutoffs, heat waves and eventually a monsoon season, and called on those who live, work and visit Riverside County to sign up for Alert RivCo to get the latest information from public safety officials.

“It could be a long summer as we can tell from this start,” Barton said. “There’s no better time to be prepared than now.”

Those wishing to get fire ready can find more information on the fire department’s website, RVCFire.org

The full meeting video can be found here.

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.