7,800 residents under mandatory evacuations after Apple Fire burns 6 square miles in Southern California

California Connection

About 7,800 people are under evacuation orders Saturday evening due to the rapidly spreading Apple Fire, which has burned more than 6 square miles in the Cherry Valley area, authorities said.

That includes an estimated 2,586 homes as the fire remains 0% contained as of 6 p.m., according to Cal Fire/ Riverside County Fire Department.

The wildfire doubled in size Saturday afternoon, exploding to 4,125 acres as it remained 0% contained, according to local fire officials.

Authorities issued mandatory evacuation orders after the fire erupted Friday evening and expanded them Saturday. About 14 hours after the fire was first reported, officials said it had scorched about 1,900 acres and destroyed at least one home and two other structures.

Mandatory evacuation orders for the following areas are effective Saturday:

  • north of Cherry Boulevard, west of Highland Springs, east of Beaumont Avenue
  • Potato Canyon area west to Raywood Flat (an earlier county tweet mistakenly said Raymond Flat)
  • north of Wilson Street, east of Sunset Avenue, west of Hathaway Street

Officials have set up an evacuation center for residents and their animals at Beaumont High School.

Residents can enter their address on the county website to see if they’re under any orders and visit rivcoready.org to sign up for alerts.

San Bernardino County officials have announced voluntary evacuation orders for the Forest Falls area, instructing residents to use Highway 38 to leave. Residents in the Oak Glen area are also under voluntary evacuation orders and being told to use Oak Glen Road or Potato Canyon.

The Sheriff Department’s Cabazon station also announced the following road closures effective indefinitely:

  • northbound on Oak Glen Road from Orchard Avenue
  • northbound on International Park/Cherry Avenue at Bridge Street
  • northbound Avenida Miravilla at Orchard Street
  • northbound Avenida San Timoteo at Orchard Street
  • northbound Winesap at Dutton Street
  • northbound Bellflower Avenue at Cherry Valley Boulevard
  • northbound Highland Springs at Oak Valley
  • northbound Sunset Ave at W. Wilson Street
  • northbound Bluff Street at Mias Canyon Road

Traffic in those streets will be limited to emergency vehicles, utility providers and media personnel, officials said.

Residents with family members who have been left behind and need transportation or medical assistance can contact the Sheriff’s Department at 951-776-1099 (select option 5), or if it’s an emergency, call 911.

They can call Riverside County Animal Control at 951-358-7387 for animal evacuations. The Sheriff’s Department urged people who have left behind necessary medication to call their local hospital for help.

Cal Fire has not reported any injuries.

The burning area of the San Bernardino National Forest had not burned in a long time, said Bill, who has lived in the community for 41 years.

“Even though we’ve had fires in the past, it’s been a number of years,” Bill said. “So there’s a lot of heavy fuel out there. It’s dry, it was 106 degrees yesterday—perfect conditions for something to really get going, and that’s what happened.”

Officials from Cal Fire and the Sheriff’s Department knocked on the doors of residents, many of them retired and elderly, asking them to leave, Bill told KTLA.

The fire was burning early Saturday toward Banning Bench, where many ranches are located, Bill said.

Cal Fire Capt. Rich Cordova said the agency has dispatched 30 engines to that community as flames threatened about 200 homes. Firefighters expect challenging conditions, with high temperatures and low humidities in Saturday’s forecast.

The vegetation fire started around 5 p.m. in three different spots along Oak Glen Road, Cordova said. Flames could have been ignited by a trailer dragging a chain or even an arsonist, he said, but investigators are still working to determine the cause.

Some 375 firefighters and an aerial unit responded to the blaze.

A map from the Los Angeles Times shows where the Apple Fire was burning on July 31, 2020.
A map from the Los Angeles Times shows where the Apple Fire was burning on July 31, 2020.

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