Stolen car catches fire in police chase, sparking 300-acre blaze, California cops say

Authorities are blaming a new Riverside County wildfire on a stolen car that went up in flames Thursday in a field following a police chase, according to Southern California media reports.

The early morning Jurupa Valley pursuit ended in a vehicle wreck and “sparked a fire in a field that quickly spread to 300 acres, damaging several buildings and forcing evacuations,” The Los Angeles Times reported.

Riverside Police Department spokesman Ryan Railsback said Riverside officers were patrolling just after midnight Thursday when they spotted a stolen car headed north on Van Buren Boulevard and tried to stop the vehicle, which led to the chase, KTLA reported.

The vehicle drove into an empty field, came to a stop and caught fire, KTLA reports.

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Jeff LaRusso, a Cal Fire spokesman, said that the “suspect crashed near brush that quickly ignited and spread through the Santa Ana River bottom,” KABC reported.

Railsback said the two people in the car — who got out before it went up in flames — are in custody, according to KTLA.

The blaze is being called the 46 Fire and was reported around 12:50 a.m., the Riverside County Fire Department said. It spread to 300 acres and was 5 percent contained as of 8:25 a.m.

Mandatory evacuation orders were imposed in the area and “an evacuation shelter has been opened at Patriot High School,” Riverside authorities said.

Early in the morning, fire officials said there had been “one residential structure, one mobile home and two outbuildings damaged in the fire.”

“One civilian was transported to an area hospital with minor injuries,” fire officials said at 9:30 a.m.

The Jurupa Unified School District said in a Facebook post that “due to fires in the area, Granite Hill, Indian Hills, and Peralta Elementary Schools are closed Thursday, October 31. Schools are expected back in session on Friday.”

Riverside County public health officials urged people in parts of Riverside and Jurupa Valley to “limit outdoor activities because of smoke and ash generated by the 46 Fire near the Santa Ana River.”

“Ash and smoke can be hard on anyone to breathe, but especially those with lung disease and respiratory illnesses,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer. “There are some simple steps residents can take to protect themselves.”

Health officials advised people to avoid vigorous activity, seal windows and doors, and run the air conditioning without taking in outside air if possible.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.