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Update November 4, 2023:  The fire is now 70% and has held at 2,487 acres.

Update November 3, 2023: The Highland Fire is now 40% contained and has burned 2,487 acres.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo via Cal Fire

November 1, 2023 (Aguanga) – What a difference night-time aerial drops can make. Two decades ago, the deadly Cedar Fire started at 5:37 p.m. and a decision was made not to put pilots at risk with night drops. That fire grew to 273,000 acres and destroyed 2,200 homes.

By contrast, last night, Cal Fire incident personnel made the decision to fight the fast-moving #HighlandFire in Aguanga by air throughout the night – preventing what could have become another regional inferno.

“The crew from Copter 301 in Cal Fire’s Riverside Unit dropped 4,200 gallons of water in an effort to slow the wind-driven fire,” Cal Fire posted on X.  At dawn this morning, “due to a combination of C301’s efforts and improved weather conditions, the fire had slowed significantly, allowing ground resources to make significant progress in stopping the fire.”

The fire, which started Oct. 30 and grew to 2,200 acres by yesterday morning has burned 2,457 acres in Riverside County, just over the San Diego County line. and is now 15 percent contained. Cal Fire reports only “minor creeping and smoldering” overnight.  At least seven structures have been destroyed and six others damaged, though thousands of homes were reported threatened yesterday. One injury is reported.

Over 1200 firefighters have been battling the blaze, with crews from multiple jurisdictions including federal, state, local and tribal governments.

Easterly winds are forecast to continue through Thursday evening, with potential to push the fire in a west/southwest direction, towards San Diego County.   Firefighters are constructing a handline around the perimeter, but steep, rugged terrain poses challenges. Steady winds and low relative humidity forecast may increase the risk of erratic fire behavior, Cal Fire warns.

Karla, an Aguanga resident who asked that her last name not be published, praised firefighters’ efforts in an email to ECM. “The Jojoba RV resort was saved thanks to over 100 firefighters putting themselves between the fire and the resort and stopping it. The fire continued west on the north side of the resort...They dropped lots of retardant along the north side of the 79 which likely kept it from jumping to our side.”

She adds, “On the east end, where the origin of the fire was and which I can see from my lot, there were some flares ups yesterday but they knocked them down. There have been helicopters with the ‘Bambi Buckets’ (water containers) surveying everything since early this morning. We can no longer see the active end of the fire (near Sage Road) or any smoke, however, we still smell it a little,” she said, adding that winds have calmed somewhat in her area. “It’s going in the right direction!”

The following road closures remain in effect:

Highway 79 from Vail Lake to San Diego County Line

Sage Road from Highway 79 to Wilson Valley Road

Willson Valley Road from Sage Road to Highway 371

Highway 371 from Highway 79 to Wilson Valley Road


Reception and Care Center

Great Oak High School, 32555 Deer Hollow Way, Temecula CA

Animal Evacuation Centers

San Jacinto Animal Campus, 581 South Grand Avenue, San Jacinto CA (Large and Small Animals)

Those needing assistance with animal evacuations can call (951) 358-7387


Agencies working on the #HighlandFire: California Highway Patrol, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California Department of Transportation, American Medical Response, California Conservation Corps, California Office of Emergency Services, Red Cross, Riverside County Emergency Management Department, Riverside County Animal Services, United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Southern California Edison, Anza Electric Co-op.



lifornia Edison, Anza Electric Co-op.


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