MURRIETA, Calif. (AP) — As afternoon and evening winds picked up, firefighters in rural Riverside County said they don't know when they'll be able to fully contain a 355-acre wildfire that has been burning since Wednesday and has destroyed one home.
Officials said the fire was still only 75 percent contained Thursday night — the same percentage as the night before — and they'll reassess the situation Friday morning.
Officials said heavy fuel was to blame, in part, for the fire's continued burn. The fire had no flames visible, only hotspots, state fire spokeswoman Jody Hagemann said.
"They've got quite a bit of mop-up to do," she said.
The National Weather Service reported winds may gust to 20 mph Thursday night.
The fire initially was declared surrounded Thursday morning, but that was retracted when it became clear more fire line needed to be carved, Hagemann said.
About 185 firefighters aided by a water-dropping helicopter were working in brush, scrub oak and light grass, she said. Three firefighters have suffered minor injuries since the fire erupted Wednesday.
That day, wind-whipped flames burned down a large two-story home in Murrieta, about 90 miles east of Los Angeles.
The Snyder family, who which had lived there for 23 years, fled earlier as winds pushed the fire closer.
"We were there and then we had to leave and I couldn't grab anything," Sherrie Snyder told KCAL-TV as she and several other family members stood and embraced on a road near the fire lines. "The fire department is wonderful, they grabbed some photo albums."
Snyder said she helped raise six children and six grandchildren in the home.
"I don't want to let this whole thing engulf me," she said. "We're a strong family, we're close, and we'll figure it out."
There was no immediate damage estimate, Hagemann said.
Some other homes in the area sit on acres of land and are valued at millions of dollars.
The fire apparently was caused by sparks thrown off when Riverside County mowing equipment clearing brush became entangled in barbed wire on a road, according to state fire Battalion Chief Phil Rawlings.
The county was cooperating with fire officials in the investigation, a Riverside County statement said.
"Each year, the county works to reduce the chance of fire by clearing brush and weeds along roadsides. The fire is a tragedy for the residents whose homes are threatened and whose lives and families are being disrupted," the statement said. "County officials will do everything in their power to assist them."
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