Thousands to evacuate as Apple Fire grows in Southern California

Photo : Yahoo News

Firefighters continued Saturday to battle the Apple Fire, a wildfire northwest of Palm Springs which began Friday as smaller fires that merged in Cherry Valley, an unincorporated area in Riverside County.

The fire has since destroyed three structures, prompted thousands to evacuate about 2,600 residences and scorched about 12,000 acres in Cherry Valley, located in Riverside County.

About 7,800 people have been ordered to leave their homes as of Saturday afternoon, as 375 firefighters with five air tankers, four helicopters and three bulldozers continued to fight to control the wildfire, which had grown to more than 18 square miles, authorities said. 

No injuries have been reported.

The Apple Fire began shortly before 5 p.m. Friday as “at least” two fires burning near each other in the 9000 block of Oak Glen Road in the unincorporated community of Cherry Valley, a few miles north of Beaumont, Cal Fire said. 

Since its start, the fire’s progress has been pretty much unchecked.

By Saturday afternoon, Cal Fire Capt. Fernando Herrera said that despite gaining some ground firefighters still had no containment.

Triple-digit temperatures, low humidity, a slight breeze and thick vegetation are feeding the flames, Herrera said, adding that the only fire breaks in the area are roads and natural barriers.

Officials reported one single-family home and two outbuildings near Avenida Miravilla have been destroyed.

Officials said that in addition to the blaze, they are also mindful of protecting evacuees from the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, the evacuation center is being used as more of a check-in point rather than an actual shelter.

On Friday, according to John Medina, shelter supervisor with the American Red Cross, because of the pandemic shelter operations were kept outdoors. 

Evacuees were asked to stay in their vehicles as volunteers checked them in, provided them with water and food and then sent them to a hotel room.