A wildfire that ignited on Friday in Southern California rapidly expanded to more than 20,000 acres over the weekend,
Forcing thousands to evacuate and creating difficulties for firefighters.
Known as the Apple Fire, the blaze has scorched 26,450 acres and is currently only 5% contained. About 8,000 residents in San Bernardino and Riverside counties remain under evacuation orders as of Monday morning, The Associated Press reported. The cause of the fire remains unknown at this time.
The fire began in Cherry Valley and was burning near the cities of Banning and Beaumont, located around 84 and 78 miles east of Los Angeles, respectively. The blaze was also burning in parts of San Bernardino National Forest and forced several trails and recreational areas in the San Gorgonio Wilderness to be closed.
The AP, citing the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), reported that the fire had destroyed at least one home and several outbuildings. The video had shown the blaze coming treacherously close to other houses as well.
Part of the fire is burning in steep, rugged hillsides, which is not accessible to firefighters, according to InciWeb. The area has also not been torched by any other fires yet this year, officials said. The fire is being driven largely in part thanks to a combination of “record low moisture content of the vegetation in the area combined with high temperatures and low relative humidity,” the official incident report said.
According to The Press-Enterprise, Lisa Cox, a U.S. Forest Service spokesperson, said the terrain was too dangerous for firefighters. “We don’t want to put firefighters in a dangerous situation,” Cox said. “It’s burning in a straight line up a mountain,” she said.
California Wildfire, Safety measures were also being implemented to reduce exposure to COVID-19 for firefighters and first responders on the fireline and in fire camp.
About 1,200 firefighting personnel are on hand combating the blaze. The containment efforts came amid sweltering conditions in the region. In the city of Riverside, temperatures hit 107 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday and remained in the 100s Saturday before dipping to 99 on Sunday.
“Sunday was the beginning of a cooling trend that will become more pronounced by midweek,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Heather Zehr said. “Temperatures will reach 98 Monday but then 95 Tuesday and only about 90 Wednesday. It will likely stay in the 80s on Thursday and Friday. That means temperatures will swing from about 10 degrees above normal late last week to almost 10 degrees below normal late this week,” she said.
California Wildfire Gusty winds will continue to hamper containment efforts for the fire, Zehr noted.
Massive plumes of smoke could be seen billowing above the mountainsides, and poor air quality was reported in the region. The smoke plume at one point reached up to 30,000 feet in the air, the National Weather Service in Los Angeles said.
Smoke from the fire drifted all the way into the Phoenix area. According to the NWS office in Phoenix, the smoke likely kept temperatures down about 2-3 degrees on Sunday, allowing Phoenix to top out at 109 F.
Pyrocumulus clouds from the fire could be seen as far south as the NWS San Diego office on Saturday. A timelapse video of the cloud formation can be seen below.
In addition to the Apple Fire, nearly 20 other large fires are currently burning across California, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Another smaller fire, known as the Post Fire, had burned about 40 acres and caused the shutdown of a stretch of Interstate 5 near the town of Gorman on Sunday.
This news was originally published at accuweather.com