Massive Apple Fire burns 18 square miles as 7,800 residents remain under evacuations in Cherry Valley area

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About 7,800 people are under evacuation orders Saturday evening as the massive Apple Fire burned through 12,000 acres — or more than 18 square miles — in the Cherry Valley area, authorities said.

An estimated 2,586 homes are being evacuated Saturday as the fire remains 0% contained as of 8:20 p.m., according to Cal Fire/ Riverside County Fire Department. The wildfire destroyed at least one home and two outbuildings near Avenida Miravilla, the department said.

The Apple Fire doubled in size throughout Saturday, exploding from 1,900 acres in the morning to 4,125 acres by around 3 p.m., according to local fire officials.

Authorities issued mandatory evacuations after the fire erupted Friday evening and expanded those orders Saturday.

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.

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.

Just after 6:30 p.m., Riverside County authorities announced an evacuation warning for residents who live north of Morongo Road, east of Millard Canyon Road and west of Whitewater Canyon Road.

Meanwhile, 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 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.

Authorities have not reported any injuries.

But some residents tried to shield their homes from the quickly spreading flames.

“We were at the back of the house — trying to protect the house — heard a crackling and the flames came over the top and just overran the whole thing,” Frank Stewart said of the moment he saw the Apple Fire come near his Cherry Valley home.

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

Another resident told KTLA the area of the San Bernardino National Forest hit by the fire had not burned in a long time.

“Even though we’ve had fires in the past, it’s been a number of years,” said Bill, who has lived in the community for 41 years.

“So there’s a lot of heavy fuel out there,” he said. “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, he said.

The Apple Fire started off as a vegetation fire around 5 p.m., burning in three different spots along Oak Glen Road, Cal Fire Capt. Rich 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.

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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