A second wildfire ignited Thursday in the Cleveland National Forest, where crews were already working to bring the Jim Fire under control near the Riverside-Orange County border.
The San Juan fire ignited around 12:15 p.m. along State Route 74 near Sievers Canyon and grew to an estimated 9 acres before halting the advance, officials said. Containment was at 90% as of Thursday evening.
The two fires fed on sun-scorched vegetation that has seen little rain since the start of the year and could offer a bleak preview of what the 2022 wildfire season may have in store.
“It shows you right there how dry the fuels are in some areas,” said Nathan Judy, spokesman for the Cleveland National Forest.
The Jim Fire ignited in the Holy Jim Canyon area of the forest around 11:20 a.m. Wednesday and quickly spread uphill, exploding from 10 to 400 acres in the first three hours.
As of Thursday afternoon, the fire had burned 553 acres and was 50% contained. Judy said the fire was “not active” on Thursday and crews’ work on this fire was a matter of “putting out hotspots.”
The vast majority of the fire burned in Orange County, but some upper portions had crossed the Riverside County line, Judy said. No houses were threatened and no evacuations ordered.
About 250 personnel — including crews from the US Forest Service, the Orange County Fire Authority and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection — attacked the fires from the air and from the ground, Judy said.
“We dropped some crews off Jim Fire to help [the San Juan fire]and now that this one’s being wrapped up, they’re sending it back to the Jim,’ he said.
The Jim Fire entered the burn scar of the 2018 Sacred Fire, which helped slow its spread along with air water and delaying drips, he said.
The holy fire, sparked by arson, consumed more than 23,000 acres and destroyed 18 buildings.
Firefighters on the ground had to hike through steep, chaparral-strewn terrain to reach the frontlines of the blaze, Judy said.
The two blazes could spell trouble for the upcoming fire season. A record dry start to the year in California, coupled with extreme temperature swings, is preparing the landscape to burn.
“Nowadays, it’s year-round fire season here in Southern California,” Judy said, noting that crews have already battled several unusually early wildfires this year, including the 154-acre Emerald Fire near Laguna Beach and the Sycamore fire near Whittier that burned only 7 acres but destroyed two homes.
“Not just the Forest Service, but all agencies have fires in California — it doesn’t matter what time of year it is,” Judy said. “If the fuel is porous, which it is, it only takes a spark to start a wildfire.”
Although January and February are typically the heart of California’s rainy season, this year’s two-month stretch was the driest on record for most of California.
Additionally, parts of Orange County have experienced record-breaking heat in recent days, including 90 degrees in Anaheim on Monday, when the city was the hottest place in the nationand again Tuesday.
Crews were banking on an incoming cool weather system to quell the Jim fire from Thursday into Friday.
The National Weather Service said the system, entering from the Gulf of Alaska, could bring temperatures down significantly and present the possibility of rain and snow in the mountains.
The causes of both fires are still under investigation, Judy said.
Times staffer Andrew J. Campa contributed to this report.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-03-03/its-year-round-fire-season-here-orange-countys-jim-fire-grows-to-more-than-550-acres Jim Fire covered 550 acres in the Cleveland National Forest