Bonita Fire 15th January 2021

UPDATED Saturday 16th at 0600

The Bonita Fire is under control (officially 20% contained) and no longer a threat to spread further. Final estimated acreage is 715 acres burned. All road closures and evacuation orders have been lifted.

UPDATED Friday 15th at 1230

All road closures in the area of the Bonita Fire have been lifted, with the exception of Highway 74 from Mountain Center to Lake Hemet. This section of highway is reduced to one lane with law enforcement escorts.

UPDATED Friday 15th at 0930

The raging Santa Ana wind has dropped, the air attack has been greatly scaled back, and it appears that the advance of the fire has been halted. It looks like its now largely a case of mopping up the dozens of hotspots. I would estimate final acreage burned may be 1000+.

Living Free has escaped a close fire unscathed yet again. The meadow immediately south of the animal sanctuary burned, literally to within a hundred yards of some buildings. A huge fire crew presence along Highway 74 just south of the Living Free entrance has ensured that the fire didn’t cross to the west side of the highway.

UPDATED Friday 15th at 0840

The Bonita Fire appeard to have started about 0.2 mile east of the junction of Bonita Vista and May Valley roads. It has burned about 0.5 mile west along Bonita Vista Road, including throughout the meadows at its junction with May Valley Road (which previously burned in both the 2013 Mountain and 2018 Cranston fires!) before descending into Johnson Meadow just east of Mountain Center.

Air attack is currently doing their typically remarkable job, focused around the Johnson Meadow area. At least four water-dropping helicopters are making runs back-and-forth to Lake Hemet. There are three tankers dropping Phos-Chek, including one large DC-10 type, plus at least two spotter planes.

A current focus of retardent drops are the closest flames to Idyllwild, about 1.8 miles down May Valley Road from its start at Cowbell Alley.

Phos-Chek drop near May Valley Road at about 0815, 15th January 2021.

UPDATED Friday 15th at 0600

There is an active 600 acre fire in the vicinity of Mountain Center. The fire started near the junction of Bonita Vista and May Valley roads (both dirt USFS roads) overnight. Mountain Center has been evacuated.

Highway 243 is closed between Idyllwild and Mountain Center at Saunders Meadow Road, and Highway 74 is closed from Strawberry Creek Road (above Hemet) to Morris Ranch Road (Garner Valley). We have had wild Santa Ana winds overnight, which are continuing this morning.

More to follow. Stay safe everyone.

2 thoughts on “Bonita Fire 15th January 2021

  1. Hey Jon, i hope you are well. I’ve been following your reports for the last few years and want to thank you and commend you on your relentless assents of SJ.
    A buddy and I have had Sj on our list to ski with one failed attempt so far…and that was with tram access.
    Given the pandemic and lack of tram, and never having approached from the south, could you give us the best trail to access wellman’s divide? We will be camping in round valley and carrying a bunch of gear.
    This trip will not be taking place until the snow depth increases and will be following your report regularly. I just want to start getting a pre-trip together for when it does become skiable.
    Thanks for your time and knowledge.


    1. Thanks for he positive feedback Rich. Devil’s Slide Trail from Humber Park is likely to be the most reliable route to get to Wellman Divide, especially during/after significant snowfall. Route finding can be tricky if snow is deeper than about 18in and the trail hasn’t been broken. Typically skiers are looking for at least 36-40in at San Jacinto Peak for adequate conditions. Bear in mind camping is currently prohibited in the State Park due to coronavirus restrictions.


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