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An afternoon flare-up of the Apple fire in Cherry Valley on Saturday, Aug. 1, spread the acreage burned to 12,000 acres and prompted new evacuations as firefighters attacked the sweeping blaze on a blistering hot day.

The 12,000-acre figure reported at 8 p.m. was up from 4,125 acres reported just after 3 p.


The flare-up was moving northwest from Pine Bench Road, said Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department Capt. Fernando Herrera. The mushroom cloud of black, brown, gray and white smoke could be seen for miles.

RELATED: This map shows the location, evacuations for the Apple Fire in Cherry Valley 

Homes in the path of the flames were threatened but were not in imminent danger, he said at about 2 p.m.

The fire that started Friday was burning intensely in drainages and canyons in the higher elevations and was being spread by ridgetop winds.

More retardant-dropping airplanes and water-dropping helicopters were ordered as a result.

Just after 2 p.m., evacuations were ordered in two areas:

– East of Oak Glen Road, west of Banning Canyon Road and along Pine Bench Road.

– North of Wilson Street, east of Sunset Avenue and west of Hathaway Street.

Then at about 5 p.m., the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department issued voluntary evacuation orders for the Oak Glen and Forest Falls vicinities. However, by 6:37 p.m. the Forest Falls order was downgraded to an evacuation warning. Later, Oak Glen was under an evacuation order (not voluntary).

#AppleFire The San Bernardino County community of Oak Glen is under an Evacuation Order.

— San Bernardino County Sheriff (@sbcountysheriff) August 2, 2020

And by 6:53 p.m., Riverside County issued a new evacuation warning for the area north of Morongo Road, east of Millard Canyon Road, west of Whitewater Canyon Road.

About 2,600 homes totaling approximately 7,800 people were under evacuation orders, Cal Fire said at 5:15 p.m.

All earlier evacuations remained in place.

Herrera urged residents not to wait until the flames were near to evacuate. But the Banning Bench, which previously had been threatened, “looks pretty good right now,” Herrera said. “Last night was touch-and-go.”

The fire remained at 0% containment.

As the fire continued to push east, it entered the northern tip of the Morongo Reservation on Saturday.

A spokesman for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians said the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa is about three miles southeast of the fire and had not been impacted.

“According to Cal Fire, approximately 1,400 acres of unoccupied land on the northwest boundary of the reservation has burned. (Reservation spans more than 35,000 acres total). Approximately 50 homes on one square mile of the reservation’s southwestern boundary are under mandatory evacuation orders and shelter and resources are being provided to affected residents,” spokesman Philip Southard said in a statement.

As of early Saturday evening, only one home was confirmed destroyed. Firefighters were having difficulty assessing the damage from the flames because the charred ground was too hot to walk on, Herrera said. The air temperature, higher than 100 degrees, prompted fire crews to frequently hydrate and take breaks.

“It’s hard to take a break, especially if you are making progress. But a (firefighter) needs to be able to say, ‘Hey, I need a break,’ ” Herrera said.

The Apple fire in Cherry Valley appears to be kicking up. Evacuations in Potato Canton west to Raymon Flat just announced.

— Brian Rokos (@Brian_Rokos) August 1, 2020

Cherry Valley is a community of rising elevations with twisting, narrow roads north of Banning near the San Bernardino County border.

Firefighters on Saturday morning were focusing their efforts on reinforcing fire breaks in the Banning Bench area, where the head of the fire burned in the canyon below.

But the fire mostly was just smoking, Herrera said at the time.

“We don’t have any raging flames that you would expect right now,” he said about 8:30 a.m.

That changed, however, as the humidity decreased during the day.

Fire activity this morning on the #AppleFIRE – courtesy of CAL FIRE/RCOFD. #RivCoNOW #CALFIREservingCA

— CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department (@CALFIRERRU) August 1, 2020


Some evacuees went to the American Red Cross evacuation center at Beaumont High, where the plume of smoke loomed in the background.

The threat of COVID-19 also loomed. Instead of setting up cots, volunteers provided hotel stays for evacuees with nowhere else to go, said John Medina, a Red Cross worker and former Corona fire chief.

Thirty-one evacuees stopped by Friday, and seven were put up in hotels. Nine had come by as of 1 p.m. Saturday and two were given hotel stays, Medina said.

The school gym was also being used as a cooling center.

Rick and Rose Stewart elected to stay at their home on Avenida Miravilla, a hilltop property with a panoramic view to the southwest that includes Lake Perris.

They built the home in 1997, Rick said Saturday, one year after he proposed to Rose on the vacant land.

So when the fire started, Rick, Rose and their son Jon decided to fight the flames themselves with a garden hose.  Rose, 65, drove away from the flames. Rick and Jon stood their ground.

“That was one of the stupidest things I could suggest doing,” Rick said. That’s because the flames that crackled in three places suddenly exploded into one inferno and raced 300 feet past their home in about 10 seconds.

The flames burned a portion of their boat but spared the house.

“That was like staring into the eyes of hell, and that is the reason I’ll never do it again,” said Rick, 67.


#AppleFire off of off of Oak Glen Road and Apple Tree Lane, North of Cherry Valley in Riverside County is 1,900 acres. Evacuation Orders are in place. Unified Command: @CALFIRERRU, @SanBernardinoNF, @RSO and @ChpRiverside

— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) August 1, 2020

CAL FIRE/ Riverside County Fire Department is activly fighting the #AppleFire. Please use caution in the area as fire resources continue to work in the area.

— CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department (@CALFIRERRU) August 1, 2020

Sheriff’s deputies shut down Oak Glen Road between Cherry Valley Boulevard and Wildwood Canyon Road, and shortly before 6 p.m. Friday,  multiple streets came under mandatory evacuation orders, impacting an estimated 1,000 residents in 150 homes, officials said.

Evacuations were ordered for residents in the Banning Bench area and a road closure was in place along North Sunset Avenue at Wilson Street and North San Gorgonio Avenue at Summit Drive, according to the Banning Police Department.

Evacuation orders were extended at 11 p.m. to north of Cherry Valley Boulevard, between Beaumont and Highland Springs avenues, Cal Fire said.

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At the request of the Fire Department, Southern California Edison turned off electricity along Oak Glen Road and on surrounding side streets to prevent additional fires from breaking out as burned power poles collapsed and dropped transmission lines.

The practice is known as a “public safety power shutoff.”

As the fires started about 5 p.m. on Friday, witnesses reportedly called 911 stating a man was seen walking along Apple Tree Lane, igniting three blazes. Arson investigators were dispatched to the area.

Herrera said he was unable to confirm that information Saturday. The investigation was ongoing, he said.

Firefighters from southern and central California fought the blaze.

City News Service contributed to this story.


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Massive California brush fire erupts near Angeles National Forest

A California brush fire tore across thousands of acres in Lake Hughes Wednesday and was still burning into the evening, continuing to rapidly spread with zero containment.

Photos of the fire show smoke rising into the sky as flames crawl up a mountainside.

The blaze broke out around 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time in the foothills of the mountainside community about 65 miles north of Los Angeles. It is near North Lake Hughes and Pine Canyon roads in the Angeles National Forest Fox LA reported.

County firefighters were assisting local crews in the battle against the flames, which engulfed 400 acres within an hour according to authorities. By 5:30 p.m. it had scorched 6,000 acres, Fox LA reported. By then, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies began evacuating local residents.

The forest itself covers about 700,000 acres.


Authorities said they closed Lake Hughes Road from Castaic to Pine Canyon as a result of the fire.

Helicopters were spotted dropping water on the fire, according to ABC 7.

The official Twitter account for the Angeles National Forest shared an image taken street level outside the town that showed thick clouds of smoke billowing well above the mountaintops.

National Forest previously had issued campfire restrictions, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention launched a public awareness campaign aimed at reducing the risk of human-caused fires. Cooking stoves, lanterns and other gas- and propane-powered devices are currently prohibited.


Forecasters warned Tuesday that hot, dry conditions could create a threat of new wildfires breaking out across the West. Excessive heat warnings were also in effect for Southern California and the Southwest, according to the National Weather Service.

In Colorado, the Grizzly Creek Fire forced authorities to close Interstate 70 near the Rocky Mountains in both directions Tuesday. By Wednesday afternoon, it had spread to more than 3,700 acres, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

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