With 5% containment, Apple Fire grows to more than 41 square miles; thousands evacuated due to Southern California wildfire


BANNING, Calif. (News Nation/KTLA) — Thousands of people remain under evacuation orders Monday after a wildfire in mountains east of Los Angeles grew in size and forced crews to battle flames in triple-digit heat. The fire in Riverside County has consumed more than 41 square miles of dry brush and timber. It is 5% contained.

More than 2,200 firefighters continue to battle the growing wildfire, which has scorched 26,450 — or about 41 square miles—as of Monday, according to Cal Fire. Authorities have not reported any injuries.

Evacuation orders and warnings are still in effect, according to the Riverside County Fire Department‘s incident page.

Riverside County residents can type their address on the county website to see if they’re affected by any orders. They can also sign up for alerts on rivcoready.org.

The Oak Glen community of San Bernardino County was also ordered to evacuate on Saturday, and authorities said residents in that county should keep an eye on announcements from the Sheriff’s Department.

Officials have set up an evacuation center at Beaumont High School Cherry Valley, California.

The blaze grew in size over the weekend after starting in three different spots along Oak Glen Road around 5 p.m. Friday, according to Cal Fire. The cause remains under investigation, but Capt. Rich Cordova said it could possibly be a trailer dragging a chain or even an arsonist.

The Apple Fire had burned 1,720 acres by late Friday before spreading to 12,000 acres by 8 p.m. Saturday, when officials said about 7,800 people had been ordered to flee, according to NewsNation affiliate KTLA.

On Sunday, the fire appeared to move toward the Morongo Basin. By evening, it had grown to more than 20,000 acres from just 12,000 acres the night before.

“Much of the northern and eastern edge of the fire is in very steep, rugged hillsides which is not accessible to firefighting vehicles. … Fire activity is expected to remain high today, with active fire in most areas of the fire,” stated the U.S. Forest Service’s incident information website.

Firefighters haven’t faced much wind but conditions have been hot and dry. The Forest Service said while temperatures should cool down by a couple degrees Sunday, the weather will stay mostly the same.

Twenty hand crews, six helicopters, 178 engines, and 19 water tenders have been deployed to the site, according to the Forest Service.

The flames have destroyed at least one residence and two outbuildings near Avenida Miravilla, Cal Fire said.

“You wonder when you drive away, ‘Are we gonna come back?,” said Bob Alsup, an Oak Glen resident who evacuated over the weekend. “But we did so we’re fortunate.”

A longtime resident who identified himself as Bill told KTLA the area hasn’t seen a fire in a while, “so there’s a lot of heavy fuel out there.”

Another resident said some people tried to protect their homes from the flames.

“Stupid thing you always see people do is start, with a little hose, wetting your house down,” Frank Stewart told KTLA. “And I can tell you that that wouldn’t do a darn thing.”

Many in the community are retired and elderly, residents said.

Satellite image from National Weather Service shows smoke from the blaze reaching as far as Phoenix. Local air quality officials issued a smoke advisory effective through Sunday, predicting winds will push smoke to the Coachella Valley.

San Bernardino National Forest officials announced closures of the San Gorgonio Wilderness and Forest Falls recreation area.

Reporting by Jennifer McGraw, Kristina Bravo and John Fenoglio of KTLA.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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