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Home / News / Fire / Fires near freeway in Riverside damage properties; school evacuated

Fires near freeway in Riverside damage properties; school evacuated

by City News Service
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A cluster of spot fires that began Wednesday in a transient encampment and burned alongside the Pomona (60) Freeway in Riverside damaged at least six properties, displacing one resident, before the fires were stopped.

There were no reports of injuries.

The original fire was reported at about 2 p.m. along the retaining wall for the westbound 60, facing Stoddard Avenue, according to the Riverside Fire Department.

Engine and truck crews from the city and Riverside County Fire Department were sent to the location and encountered flames in three to four spots that had branched out from the principal blaze behind houses and on both sides of the retaining wall, including the shoulder of the freeway.

A charred retaining wall and ground bordering the 60 Freeway was where witnesses said the fire started. | Photo courtesy of the Riverside Fire Department

Firefighters encountered palm trees in flames, as well as fire threatening residences in the 3700 block of Stoddard and the 3700 block of Shamrock Avenue, according to reports from the scene.

In at least one instance, a homeowner used a garden hose to try to keep the flames at bay.

One home sustained significant damage, displacing the elderly woman residing there with her two pets. Red Cross personnel were summoned to assist her with finding temporary alternate lodgings, according to officials.

The extent of damage to the other properties, a few of which may have been outbuildings and garages, was not immediately clear.

The fires were fully contained by 3:55 p.m. The amount of acreage burned was unconfirmed.

“The fire has been determined to be human-caused, originating on the freeway side near a homeless encampment,” Battalion Chief Mike Allen said.

Riverside Public Utilities implemented a public safety power shutoff after electricity transmission lines collapsed outside several properties, elevating fire threats. The shut-off impacted the area south of Fairmount Boulevard, north of Main Street, east of the freeway and west of Shamrock. The number of properties affected was not provided.

The on-ramp from Main Street to the westbound 60 was shut down as a precaution, and two engine crews positioned themselves on the shoulder of the freeway to battle the flames, snarling westbound traffic. Police closed Stoddard between Main and Fairmount for public safety.

Fire reaches edge of elementary school

One of the several spot fires that broke out alongside the 60 Freeway spread to an elementary school campus, which was completely evacuated, though no students or staff were injured at the site.

The blaze was reported at about 2:20 p.m. near the cafeteria of Fremont Elementary School at 1925 Orange St., according to the Riverside Fire Department.

The agency said witnesses called 911 after seeing flames from one of three to four spot fires in the area of Stoddard Avenue and Main Street approaching the school grounds.

The whole campus was evacuated, with students taken to shelter in a church less than two blocks away, according to officials at the scene.

Firefighters reached the school within minutes and discovered flames outside the walls of the cafeteria, quickly knocking down the blaze. No damage was reported.

At least three students complained of shortness of breath and related health complications after being evacuated, according to the fire department.

As of 3 p.m., paramedics and several ambulances were sent to the church, but it was unclear whether any of the kids would require hospitalization.

Firefighters continued to battle the spot fires, which were impacting the freeway, where several engine crews positioned themselves.

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