Rincon Valley fire captain Fred Leunberger watches as a pine tree torches out on the head of the Yellow fire above Knights Valley, Calif., Wednesday, May 1, 2013. The fire started early Wednesday morning on the rugged border between Napa and Sonoma Counties and roared through tall stands of pine trees. Crews were securing the perimeter of the fire in the afternoon. (AP Photo/Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Kent Porter)
Banning fire: Wildfire in California is spreading rapidly.
The blaze is being called “the Summit fire” and spread to 200 acres in three hours after it broke out around 12:30 p.m. As of 5:50 p.m. the fire had spread to more than 1,5000 acres, according to the Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department.
One home was burned and was threatening about 800 more, fire officials told local newspaper The Press-Enterprise. As of 6 p.m. Western time, the Highland Springs area, which contains 300 mobile homes, is being threatened, as well as nearby homes, Cal Fire/Riverside County Battalion Chief Julie Hutchinson told the enterprise.
At least 425 firefighters were working to gain control of the fast-moving fire, said Jody Hagemann, spokeswoman for the county fire department. Six helicopters and six air tankers were making water drops.
Regina Redfeather and her son raced back to her Banning Bench ranch and tried fighting off flames while gathering belongings. She said the fire came up on the house in 15 minutes.
Other areas affected included the Redlands area, northwest of Banning.
The Redlands Daily Facts reported that residents have been complaining of headaches and aggravated asthma, and youth baseball activities were canceled.
Winds of 29 mph were driving the fire, and if they continued, the fire could reach communities in Cherry Valley and Beaumont.
Winds advisories estimate gusts could ramp up to 55 miles per hour in the mountain areas and up to 45 miles per hour in the valleys.
Much of Southern California was under red flag warnings for fire danger due to heat, wind and low humidity levels.
In Northern California, firefighters were battling fires fueled by gusty winds in wine country.
In Sonoma County, the Yellow Fire north of Calistoga was less than half contained after burning 125 acres. The Silverado Fire near Yountville, in Napa County, burned an even smaller area and was 75 percent contained.
State fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said neither fire was threatening structures, but the blazes across of California could be an ominous sign.
“Statewide, our fire activity is up over 60 percent of normal,” Berlant said. “It has everything to do with the fact that conditions are so dry, then you add wind, making the perfect conditions for a fire.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.