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Local Emergency Declared As Silver Fire Spreads To 14K Acres, 20 Percent Contained

BANNING ( — Authorities Thursday declared a local emergency and issued new evacuations as a fast-moving wildfire near Banning grew to 14,000 acres.

The Silver Fire was reported around 2:05 p.m. Wednesday on Poppet Flats Road south, according to Riverside County Fire Department.

As of Thursday evening 26 homes and one commercial building had burned.

"The conditions at the front right now are very dangerous," Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins said. "The fire is spreading rapidly to the east."

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection ordered the evacuation of Snow Creek and Cabazon Village, south of Esperanza Avenue and north of Hattie Avenue early Thursday morning as the fire, fueled by winds, raged at 20 percent containment.

Mandatory evacuations were already in place for Poppet Flats, Twin Pines, Silent Valley, Vista Grande and Mt. Edna. An evacuation warning was issued for the campgrounds of Black Mountain and Boulder Basin, as well as the Black Mountain lookout.

Highway 243 has also been closed between Banning and Azalea Trail in Poppet Flats.

Sixteen structures, including several homes, have been damaged or destroyed in the Twin Pines area.

The American Red Cross has opened evacuation centers at the following locations:

• Hemet High School, 41701 East Stetson Avenue
• Beaumont High School, 39139 Cherry Valley Boulevard
• Animal Evacuation: San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus, 581 South Grand Avenue

An estimated 1,400 firefighters, 84 engine companies, 13 helicopters and six air tankers, four water tenders and eight bulldozers have been assigned to the scene, according to RCFD.

Four firefighters and one civilian have been injured. The civilian was airlifted from the scene, suffering from head to toe burns, the Riverside County Fire Department said.

The extent of the firefighters' injuries was unknown.

Riverside County Fire is working with several other agencies to tackle the blaze, including the Bureau of Land Management, CAL FIRE/Riverside, California Highway Patrol – Indio, March ARB, Morongo Fire Department, Riverside County Fire Office Of Emergency Services, Riverside County Sheriff's Office and the United States Forest Service – San Bernardino.

Senator Barbara Boxer, who lives in Riverside County, toured the burned area Thursday.

"I will help insure that everyone here gets what they need to contain this fire and help residents who have been forced to evacuate," Boxer said at a news conference.

FEMA funds have been issued to help pay for the cost of fighting the wildfire.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

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