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Apple fire evacuations remain in place, 12 structures destroyed

The Apple fire, ignited by hot debris from a vehicle’s faulty exhaust, grew by 400 acres overnight to 26,850 acres and containment was doubled to15% Tuesday morning. Evacuations were still in place because winds in the San Bernardino Mountains remain a threat, with gusts up to 30 mph forecast for the afternoon.

Twelve structures were destroyed in the fire, authorities said. Through Monday, reports said one home and two outbuildings were burned. A damage assessment team has been investigating the burn area. The blaze  started Friday just before 5 p.m. in Riverside County’s Cherry Valley.

The wildfire overnight into Tuesday spread north across the head of Mill Creek Canyon and east into the San Gorgonio Wilderness, which has been closed since Aug. 2  because of the fire.

The fire grew by 400 acres after days of advancing by thousands of acres. Sparser vegetation in the wilderness is limiting the fire’s intensity, the firefighting team’s Tuesday morning report said. The increase in containment came from firefighters completing a line on the southwest corner of the fire’s perimeter.

The blaze has scorched nearly 42 square miles of mostly chaparral and brush, much of it in the San Bernardino National Forest. Cal Fire said the Apple fire forced the evacuation of an estimated 2,586 homes in several communities, affecting 7,800 people

On Monday, investigators from Cal Fire said the cause of the blaze was hot debris spewed from a faulty exhaust system on a diesel-powered vehicle that witnesses said was driving along Oak Glen Road. It sparked perhaps three separate fires, which merged into one.

The agency asked anyone who saw a vehicle that appeared to have mechanical problems or unusual smoke coming from it traveling in the 9000 block of Oak Glen Road in Cherry Valley at the time the fires started to contact them on an anonymous hotline, 800-633-2836.

The foothill community of Oak Glen remained under evacuation Tuesday, with Forest Falls, Pioneertown and Rimrock  — the latter two in the desert on the eastern edge of the fire — under evacuation warnings.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said Tuesday it was hoping to lift the Oak Glen evacuation  “within the next day or so, however due to predicted winds we want to err on the side of caution.”

The National Weather Service forecast southwest winds of 15 to 20 mph, gusting to 30 mph in the San Bernardino Mountains for Tuesday. Temperatures will range of 82 to 91 in the lower elevations,where the fire has been burning.

The South Coast Air Quality Manage District continued through Tuesday a smoke advisory for the San Gorgonio Pass, Coachella Valley and East Riverside County, as well as the eastern area of the San Bernardino Mountains.

In addition to the San Gorgonio Wilderness, the Pacific Crest Trail is closed from the national forest boundary to Forest Road 1N01. All Forest Service recreation areas in Forest Falls are also closed.

Source: Orange County Register

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