In Southern California, the Apple fire has burned nearly 21,000 acres in parts of Riverside and San Bernardino County with only 5% containment and has forced the evacuations of 7,800 people and occupants of 2,500 homes.
Over 7800 evacuated from 2500 homes as blaze stretches over 20,000 acres
The fire began as two adjacent fires that were reported shortly after 5 PM on Friday. The fires eventually merged and have now burned over 20,000 acres which is roughly over thirty-two square miles, NPR reported.
Amid a coronavirus pandemic, about 7,800 people in 2,586 homes in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties were under evacuation orders as of Saturday evening, authorities said, ABC News reported.
At least one home and two outbuildings were destroyed, ABC 7 reported.
Containment keeps shifting as fire moves into rough terrain, only 5% contained
Containment of the Apple fire in Southern California keeps shifting as the fire expands in the rough terrain that is making firefighting efforts difficult. On Sunday, containment was at zero, went to 1 percent, and was reportedly at 5 percent early on Monday, the California Interagency Incident Management Team said, CNN reported.
According to CalFire, as of 7:16 AM PST Monday, the fire had consumed 26,450 acres and was 5% contained.
“We’ve got extremely steep, rugged terrain,” said Lisa Cox, fire information officer for San Bernardino National Forest. “We have many different drainages that are all kind of intersecting together and that creates these funneling effects of different wind patterns and creates more erratic fire behavior.”
“And with that, we have very thick brush including this really flammable ecosystem called chaparral that likes to burn and it hasn’t burned here in a long time,” Cox added.
Fire is creating its own weather system
Driven by gusty winds amid high temperatures, Cox said that the fire is creating its own weather system.
“It actually creates this updraft of smoke ash and flame and it creates this huge cloud and it has a down draft that actually spreads out in all 360 directions around the fire,” Cox said.
Over 2200 personnel battling the blaze, 15 fires raging in the state
According to officials, the northern and eastern edges of the fire are in steep, rugged hillsides not accessible to firefighting vehicles, ABC News reported.
As of Sunday evening, 2,266 personnel, 29 hand-crews, 9 helicopters, 260 engines and 11 water tenders fighting the fire, according to officials, CNN reported.
15 total fires throughout the state
The Apple fire is one of 15 separate fires burning throughout the state, according to Cal fire. The total acreage burned from three of the state’s largest fires is over 50,000.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation
Two fires merged into one to create the currently out-of-control Apple Fire. The cause of both initial fires still under investigation, however, authorities strongly believe this could be a case of arson.
The brush in this area has not burned in years. The timing of the fire is suspect, occurring at a time when temperatures were excessively high and humidity levels low, as well as during windy conditions.
After all these years, and all the messaging that is been put out to the public, there is still concern over how to stop smoking drivers from throwing lit cigarettes into dry forests, especially during red flag season in California.