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Fast-moving Highland Fire: Riverside County Fire Spreads

A fast-moving wildfire in Riverside County has spread to over 2,200 acres and is yet to be contained. Over 4,000 people have been forced to evacuate.

A massive wildfire has rapidly spread across Riverside County, engulfing over 2,200 acres of land and posing a significant threat to the area. The blaze, known as the 'Highland Fire,' was ignited by the powerful Santa Ana winds, which began wreaking havoc in the southeast areas of Los Angeles on Monday afternoon. As a result, more than 4,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes, as 1,300 houses are at risk of being consumed by the flames.

Despite the efforts of firefighters, who have been battling the blaze since its outbreak, the fire remains uncontained. By Tuesday morning, the fire had grown to 2,200 acres, with zero percent containment, according to Cal Fire. Thankfully, there have been no reported deaths or injuries thus far. However, the devastation caused by the fire is evident, with at least three buildings destroyed and six others damaged. Approximately two miles of land have been affected by the flames.

The Santa Ana winds, notorious for their strength and dryness, are often referred to as devil winds. These powerful downslope winds typically manifest in Southern California during the autumn season. Over the past week, California experienced the first wave of Santa Ana winds this year, with gusts ranging from 20 to 25 miles per hour. Unfortunately, the affected area in Riverside County is sparsely populated, and the fire originated in the dry, bushy hills of Aguanga.

The combination of strong winds, low humidity, and dry fuels has created a challenging situation for firefighters. Maggie Cline De La Rosa, a representative from Cal Fire, explained that the low relative humidity prevents the fuels from recovering, making them extremely dry and susceptible to the wind's influence. The hope is that the winds will slow down overnight, providing fire crews with an opportunity to contain the blaze. However, wind remains the determining factor in the battle against the fire.

Residents in Aguanga have witnessed the destructive power of the fire firsthand. Mindy Ellison, a lifelong resident, recounted how burning embers carried by the high winds ignited a blaze near her home, which had never experienced a fire before. The impact of the Santa Ana winds is well-known in California, as they have been responsible for some of the state's most devastating wildfires. The infamous Woolsey Fire in Malibu, which began on November 8, 2018, and consumed over 220,000 acres, was fueled by these winds and claimed the lives of at least 50 people.

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for extreme fire danger in parts of Los Angeles and Riverside counties, as winds are expected to reach speeds of 15 to 25 miles per hour, with gusts up to 40 miles per hour. The situation remains critical, and firefighters continue to battle the Highland Fire with the assistance of air tankers, helicopters, and water tenders. The hope is that the forecasted slowdown in winds will aid containment efforts, but the unpredictable nature of wildfires makes the outcome uncertain.

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