MURRIETA -- Mandatory evacuation orders and warnings were lifted Friday morning as crews continued battling the Tenaja Fire for a third day.
Residents of Montanya Place, Botanica Place, Belcara Place, Lone Oak Way, portions of Copper Canyon and The Trails Circle in La Cresta can return to their homes, Riverside County officials confirmed. Evacuation warnings in those areas were lifted at 8 p.m. Friday.
Firefighters increased containment of the blaze to 25% Friday evening. The flames burned 2,000 acres, or roughly 3 square miles, according to an update from the Riverside County Fire Department.
Flames from the massive blaze died down Thursday night, but officials were concerned afternoon winds could pick up Friday and bring another chance of heavy fire activity.
Officials say it’s the same pattern they dealt with on Thursday, when gusty winds allowed flames to burn right up to the fences of several homes.
“The winds will come out of one direction in the morning — blowing out toward the ocean — and then by the afternoon we’ll get a 180-degree switch in the wind direction,” Cal Fire Battalion Chief Todd Hopkins said Thursday.
The weather pattern was described as the “Elsinore effect.”
At one point, as many as 2,000 residences were threatened with about 570 under mandatory evacuation orders.
So far, two homes have been damaged in the fire, Murrieta Fire and Rescue Chief David Lantzer said. No further details about the homes were available.
Nearly 900 firefighters from multiple agencies are battling the blaze from the ground and air. Ten helicopters and 11 air tankers have been deployed.
The fire began just before 4 p.m. Wednesday near the intersection of Tenaja and Clinton Keith roads in the La Cresta community.
Three firefighters have suffered non-life-threatening injuries battling the flames, officials said. Full containment was expected Tuesday.
The cause of the fire is still unknown.
The Murrieta, Romoland, Lake Elsinore, Menifee Union and Perris Elementary school districts canceled classes on Friday.
A smoke advisory issued by the South Coast Air Quality Management District was extended into Friday.
Residents in Riverside County were urged to register for emergency alerts at the RivCoReady website.