UPDATED: A small brush that burned an eighth of an acre Friday in Lake Elsinore was accidentally started by a transient attempting to heat coffee with a propane blow torch, a fire engineer said.
The fire was reported at 2:54 p.m. in the 31600 block of Auto Center Drive in a riverbed homeless encampment across the street from the Travel Inn motel.
Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department engineer Don Camp said the man was attempting to use the torch as a heating device when it started leaking fuel and ignited the blaze in heavy brush.
The man, whose identity has not been released, sustained minor burns but refused treatment, Camp said. He was being detained for questioning by Cal Fire Prevention investigators.
Camp warned that fire conditions are very dangerous this year.
"[The fire] was in heavy fuel so it was putting up some pretty good flames and thick black smoke. We haven't had much rain. It didn't take much ... to get the fire going," he explained.
"California has had a record dry winter, about the fourth driest in state history," he added, explaining that the current vegetation moisture levels are what fire officials normally see toward the end of summer.
Camp said three engines and 10 firefighters were called to Friday's incident, and there were no other injuries reported.
Auto Center Drive was temporarily closed in both directions.
The fire was contained at 3:09 p.m., Camp said. --Daniel Lane contributed to this report.