As the wind-whipped Cranston Fire spread to 11,500 acres on Friday in the San Bernardino National Forest in Mountain Center, Democratic U.S. Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz stood vigil at the Command Center at 7 a.m. for a briefing ready to help in any way possible.
That included a directive to residents to evacuate.
At least one cell tower had collapsed, Ruiz reported, adding how frightening that is for someone who is alone and might have access to other means of communication.
The fire’s ever-increasing sprawl and intensity prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for the Riverside County area.
Some mountain communities were under mandatory evacuations:
- The Apple Canyon area
- Cedar Glen
- Camp Scherman Girl Scout Camp
- Fern Valley
- Hurkey Creek Area
- The Lake Hemet area
- Mountain Center
- Mt San Jacinto State Park
- Pine Cove
Broadcasting live from the Command Center, Ruiz said some 4,800 homes were threatened and more than 6,000 people have been evacuated.
“That’s a lot of people from this mountain area,” Ruiz said. “What’s remarkable for me is that there are still a few holdouts, especially in the city of Idyllwild that have not left. That’s very dangerous. You’re risking your lives. You’re risking the lives of these men and women who would have to go in and rescue you in the case of a severe emergency.”
Anything, Ruiz implored listeners, can happen depending on the weather and location.
“This fire can jump and grow,” he said. “If you’re out there seeing this, if you have cell service, or have a friend, give them the word to evacuate. Leave your home. The most vulnerable people that are out here are the elderly, single mothers with many children, perhaps an infant and those that live in extreme poverty.”
Ruiz deployed his staff to visit shelters to determine the needs.
The Congressman said he is also working with Cal Fire and the U.S. Forestry to determine what more they will need.
“We will work individually, one-on-one, case work, advocacy to help these families get back on their feet, back in their homes once it’s safe,” Ruiz said.”
He also visited displaced residents in the shelters.