Evacuation orders remained in place early Monday for thousands of people after a wildfire in mountains east of Los Angeles exploded in size and forced crews to battle flames in triple-digit heat. The Apple Fire in Riverside County consumed more than 31 square miles of dry brush and timber, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
As of Monday morning, it was 5% contained. The cause was under investigation.
#AppleFire off of Oak Glen Road and Apple Tree Lane, North of Cherry Valley in Riverside County is 26,450 acres and 5% contained. Evacuation Orders are in place. Unified Command: @CALFIRERRU, @SanBernardinoNF, and Yucaipa City Fire pic.twitter.com/HAXDDcbhBT
— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) August 3, 2020
Officials allowed flames to run up the side of Mount San Gorgonio, an 11,000-foot peak, because it wasn’t safe to let crews work in such steep, rugged terrain, said Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service.
“Given the fuel, given the weather, given the topography and where this is going, this fire is not going to stop tonight, it’s going to keep going,” Cox said.
CBS News correspondent Carter Evans reports that as of late Sunday, only a small number of evacuees had come to a nearby Red Cross shelter — perhaps unaware they will be given hotel vouchers.
“Folks are not taking advantage of it, because they’re obviously concerned about COVID-19,” Capt. Fernando Herrera of Cal Fire said. “We have measures in place for them. We planned for this months ahead.”
The blaze began as two adjacent fires reported Friday evening in Cherry Valley, an unincorporated area near the city of Beaumont about 85 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.
Flames leapt along brushy ridge tops and came close to homes while firefighters attacked it from the ground and air.
One home and two outbuildings were destroyed, Cal Fire said. No injuries were reported.
Evacuation orders and advisories were issued for about 8,000 people in mountain, canyon and foothill neighborhoods. Campgrounds and hiking trails were closed in the San Gorgonio Wilderness area of the San Bernardino National Forest.
A huge smoke plume was visible for miles around and contributed to poor air quality.
The mercury hit 109 degrees Sunday in nearby Palm Springs. The National Weather Service said “dangerously hot conditions” were expected to continue because of high pressure over much of Southern California.
To the north, the Pond Fire in San Luis Obispo County was 10% contained Sunday after burning more than 2 square miles of (6 square kilometres) brush east of Santa Margarita. The blaze destroyed two structures but officials said it was unclear whether they were homes.