With thousands of southern California residents staying under eviction orders, an apple fire has exploded to more than 20,000 acres after the fire ignited at least one house.
The so-called Apple Fire, which may have started to catch fire, flared in the Cherry Valley between Riverside and San Bernardino provinces, consuming about 20,516 acres, and still contains 0%.
Local fire officials said that progress was made and the fire contained 12%. However, in a later update after the US Forest Service took command, fire officials said the fire contained 0%.
The officials said most of the northern and eastern rim of the fire in rugged hillsides is inaccessible by firefighters. Helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft carriers, ground equipment and hand crews were recruited to fight forest fires.
Several evictions took place in Riverside and San Bernardino, forcing approximately 8,000 people to evacuate.
An emergency closure order was implemented that prohibited all entry into the San Gorgonio Wilderness area, including the Pacific Crest hiking route between the forest frontier and the 1N01 forest road.
Residents of Wilson Street, east of Sunset Street and west of Hathaway Street in Banning, were ordered to evacuate at 2:15 pm. On Saturday, flames infiltrate the neighborhood, according to the Riverside County Emergency Department.
At 7 pm, residents were notified that they should be ready to evacuate with little notice from the area north of Morongo Road east of Millard Canyon Road, West Whitewater Canyon Road.
Riverside County Fire Department said that also under evacuation orders since Friday, there were residents in Banning Punch and those north of Cherry Valley Street between Beaumont Road and Highland Springs.
Fire officials estimated that 400 homes and 2,000 people had been evacuated and said they had no time frame for the reconstruction of the vacated areas.
A difficult road along North Sunset at Wilson and North San Giorgonio Street in Summit Drive has been closed, according to the Banning Police Department.
Oak Glen Road, also closed between Cherry Valley Boulevard and Wildwood Canyon Road.
Fire Department spokesman Fernando Herrera said that a temporary evacuation center had been established at Beaumont High School, 39139 Cherry Valley Street, with anyone entering there to test COVID-19 before being allowed in.
The American Red Cross was helping evacuees by putting them in hotels.
The battle was waged by a unified command between the U.S. Forest Service, the Riverside Fire Department, the Riverside County Police Directorate, and the city of Yucaiba.
Fire activity was expected to remain high and the weather is expected to be similar for the past few days, with a series of high pressure creating hot and dry conditions.
Fire officials said that a single family home and two external buildings were destroyed near Avenida Miravilla, destroying a few cars, a structure and a boat.
The smoke plume of fire was visible in most parts of southern California. The South Coast Air Quality Management District has issued smoke consultations for the Coachella Valley, the San Giorgonio Pass and the Hemet San Jacinto Valley due to the fire. The agency urged residents of the area who smell smoke or see ash to limit their exposure to staying indoors while closing windows and doors or searching for alternative shelter, and avoiding strong physical activity.
As of 8:00, 20 hand crews, six helicopters, 178 engines, 19 water tenders and 1,200 personnel participated in the fire-fighting efforts.
Besides the county firefighting teams and firefighters in Orange County and Anaheim Firefighting and Rescue, individuals from Kalemisa, Morongo, Morita, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Huntington Beach, Hemet, Mechanics, San Bernardino, Suboba, Los Angeles and fire department departments in Los County Angeles was sent for assistance under mutual assistance.
At the request of the Fire Department, Southern California Edison turned off electricity along Oak Glen Road and the surrounding side streets to prevent additional fires with burning electricity poles and transmission lines dropped.
This practice is known as a “public safety power outage.”
Initially, two burning fires were reported at 5 pm. The Royal Society for Nature Conservation said the Apple Tree Lane and Oak Glen Road on the northern end of the unified community that is bordered by Beaumont, merged into one by 5:45 pm.
A possible third intentional fire was reported in the area and black 60 to 80 acres by 7 pm, according to reports from the scene.
Firefighters sent to the site faced the three fires that merged in drainage with heavy plants.
Witnesses called 911 when the fires started, noting that a man was seen walking along the Apple Tree Lane, setting off every fire. The arson investigators were sent to the area and the investigation was under way.