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Associated Press, Published August 08 2013

California wildfire grows to 10,000 acres; one person burned ‘head to toe’

The explosive Silver fire in Riverside County, Calif., remained uncontained Thursday morning as it moved east toward the desert, having already scorched 10,000 acres and destroyed homes and other structures while severely injuring one local resident.

The wind-driven fire, first reported at about 2 p.m. PDT Wednesday near Banning, Calif., exploded in size within hours, driven by winds out of the west and prompting the mandatory evacuation of roughly 1,500 residents, some of whom were forced to “shelter in place” as the fire lines closed in and cut off exit paths.

Mandatory evacuation orders remain in place for Vista Grande, Mount Edna, Poppet Flats, Silent Valley, Twin Pines and portions of Cabazon.

Three people have been injured, including two firefighters who were treated and released at a local hospital, according to Daniel Berlant, spokesman for Cal Fire, the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. At least 15 structures, including some homes, were burned to the ground.

Cal Fire Riverside Chief John R. Hawkins told NBC Los Angeles that the unidentified civilian “was very badly burned,” suffering burns “from head to toe.”

The victim was airlifted to a local hospital burn center for treatment, according Berlant.

The Cal Fire spokesman pleaded with residents to heed evacuation orders and to stay out of burn areas, warning that fire lines can change and hotspots can flare up.

“When they wait to the last minute (to evacuate), they’re trying to get out as we’re trying to get in,” complicating firefighting efforts, Berlant said.

Meanwhile, the fire continued to move east toward the desert with “a lot of active fronts on this fire,” he added.

There were roughly 1,000 firefighters on the scene, with six air tankers and 13 water-dropping helicopters fighting from above, according to Cal Fire.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Thursday authorized the use of federal funds to assist with the firefighting effort in response to a request from state officials.

Steve Harrison, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego, said firefighters could expect low humidity Thursday with winds in the Banning area around 15 to 20 mph. In the Coachella Valley, gusts could reach 40 mph, he added.