HEMET, Calif. —
The fire was churning through thick, dry brush and scattered trees in an area above 5,000 feet. The area immediately surrounding Idyllwild is much more thickly forested and has not burned in decades.
The fire has shut down popular campgrounds and hiking trails, including some 30 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs 2,650 miles from Mexico to the Canadian border and connecting trails in the area, according to a website of the Pacific Crest Trail Association.
“That’s going right down the middle of the fire,” U.S. Forest Service spokesman Norma Bailey said of the trail.
Any hikers going into the forest “would be stuck,” she added.
Firefighters using picks and shovels to dig firebreaks were expected to significantly tear up the trail and “a lot of rehab” will be necessary, Bailey said.
Fire crews struggled to carve fire lines around Idyllwild to block the flames, which fire officials and residents estimated at times were 100 feet high. Roughly 4,100 houses, hotels, condos and cabins in Idyllwild and surrounding communities were threatened.
Idyllwild resident Karin Hedstrom, 84, had time to gather only her medication and important paperwork before she evacuated.
“I want to know my home is OK,” said Hedstrom, who first visited the community on her honeymoon in 1958. “I don’t want ashes when I come home.”
The fire was about 12 miles from the site of the 2006 Esperanza wildfire, which killed five U.S. Forest Service firefighters and destroyed 34 homes.
Wildfires were also scarring the landscape in other western states. In Arizona, park officials were monitoring three small lightning-sparked blazes on the Grand Canyon’s north rim. Crews in northeastern Nevada had two separate wildfires 15 percent surrounded Thursday, while a southern Nevada fire that had chased people from their Mount Charleston homes was nearly corralled.