helo wildfire

Mias Fire Burns 540 Acres in Riverside County

UPDATE 8/20/17 @ 4:49 p.m. – The fire is now 100% contained at 545 acres.
UPDATE 8/19/17 @ 6:47 p.m. – The fire remains 545 acres and is now 98% contained.
UPDATE 8/18/17 @ 6:05 p.m. – The fire remains at 545 acres and is now 97% contained.
UPDATE 8/18/18 @ 8:22 a.m. – The fire remains 545 acres and is now 95% contained.
UPDATE 8/17/17 @ 6:40 p.m. – The fire remains 545 acres and is now 90% contained.
UPDATE 8/17/17 @ 7:45 a.m. – The fire remains 545 acres and is 85% contained.
UPDATE 8/16/17 @ 5:45 p.m. – The fire is 545 acres and 80% contained.
UPDATE 8/16/17 @ 7:45 a.m. – The fire remains at 540 acres and is now 50% contained.
UPDATE 8/15/17 @ 7:28 p.m. – The fire is 40% contained and remains 540 acres.

Mias Fire Summary

The Mias fire was reported around 3:45 pm on Monday, August 14th near the 10000 block of Mias Canyon Rd in Banning, California. Due to the abundance of medium and heavy vegetation in the area, the fire quickly spread to the southeast towards the Morongo Indian Reservation. By 4:45 pm the fire had already burned 50 acres but was not immediately threatening any homes or structures in the area. By Monday night the fire had grown to 540 acres and had destroyed a small chapel on a private ranch. Firefighters from Riverside County, the Mongo Fire Department, and the U.S. Forest Service were coordinating efforts to combat the blaze. In total, 278 ground personnel, seven fixed-wing aircraft, three water-helo’s, and three bulldozers were assigned to the Mias fire and had achieved 5% containment by 7:30 pm Monday night. Investigators determined that the fire, bizarrely started when a tree branch fell onto a power line. The branch was weakened due to an active bee hive that was inside of the tree.

Mias Fire RZDashboard

Quick Look at the Mias Fire in RedZone’s Dashboard

Mias Fire Outlook

Due to the fire’s location, smoke impacts will affect the local area and move into Coachella Valley through tomorrow morning. The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory for the unhealthy air quality expected. Otherwise, fire officials are fairly confident that the fire will be fully contained by Thursday with small areas still burning today and crews in mop up and contain mode for the remainder of the fire’s tenure.

Mias Fire Facts


Sources: Riverside County Fire, CALFIRE incidents, KESQ

Ten Year Anniversary of Esperanza Fire Tragedy

Esperanza Fire Recap

This week marks ten years since the tragic Esperanza Fire in California’s Riverside County. The fire started at the base of Cabazon Hill west of Palm Springs around 1:11 a.m. on October 26th, 2006. Moderate Santa Ana conditions quickly pushed the fire uphill and to the west prompting a large mutual aid response. Five United States Forest Service (USFS) Engines (including Engine 57) were some of the first to respond from the San Jacinto Ranger District and were quickly assigned to structure protection in the rural mountain community of Twin Pines.  At approximately 7:15 a.m., five wildland firefighters from USFS Engine 57 were overrun by the fire protecting an isolated, vacant residential structure.


Tragedy in Twin Pines

At the time of the accident, the fire was several hundred acres in size and burning rapidly in critically dry fuel, under the influence of Santa Ana winds. A Red Flag Warning was in place for the area, issued twenty hours prior to the accident. A March 2006 Wildfire Protection Plan rated the Twin Pines community’s Fire Threat as Extreme to Very High. Additionally, the “Octagon” house they were protecting was located at the head of a steep drainage and, according to a 2002 study, was given a defensibility rating as “non-defensible”.

Officials later determined that the combination of wind alignment, fuel susceptibility, topography of the steep drainage below the firefighters’ location, and a thermal uplifting at daybreak caused a sudden and intense fire run. Many contributing factors led to their demise, but ultimately the five firefighters were surrounded by fire incredibly quickly, without time for escape, and were fatally burned by it. The Esperanza Fire totaled 40,200 acres and 34 residences burned, continuing for another few days after that fateful morning.

Accident Aftermath

In the wake of the accident, a few investigations ensued, aiming to determine the causal and contributing factors as well as the criminal intent of the fire’s origin itself. A full investigation of the burnover found two main causal factors:

  1. There was a loss of situational awareness concerning the dangers associated with potential fire behavior and fire environment while in a complex wildland urban interface situation.
  2. The decision by command officers and engine supervisors to attempt structure protection at the head of a rapidly developing fire either underestimated, accepted, and/or misjudged the risk to firefighter safety.

Arson investigators found the fire’s ignition was an act of arson by a Raymond Lee Oyler, a nearby Beaumont resident and serial arsonist. The individual “was convicted March 6 (2009) of five counts of first-degree murder, 20 counts of arson and 17 counts of using an incendiary device. A jury called for the death penalty.” This was the first and only time an arsonist has been convicted of first degree murder.

Ten days after the event, a public memorial service was held in Devore, CA for the five firefighters lost. Subsequently, California Highway 243 through the Cabazon Hills was named a memorial highway in honor of the fallen firefighters. The site of the accident will remain unoccupied and serve as a permanent remembrance memorial. A book was written by John McClean outlining the events of the Esperanza fire tragedy (as well as other fires). The critically-acclaimed book has been picked up by Legendary Pictures for adaptation for a future film.

Memorial Plaque at the site of the Esperanza Fire accident

Memorial Plaque at the site of the accident