8,000 Evacuate as California Wildfires Spread East of Los Angeles
By Staff, Agencies
Evacuation orders remained in place early Monday for thousands of people after a wildfire in mountains east of Los Angeles exploded in size and forced crews to battle flames in triple-digit heat.
The Apple Fire in Riverside County consumed more than 31 square miles of dry brush and timber, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
As of Monday morning, it was 5% contained. The cause was under investigation.
Officials allowed flames to run up the side of Mount San Gorgonio, an 11,000-foot peak, because it wasn't safe to let crews work in such steep, rugged terrain, said Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for the US Forest Service.
“We don’t want to put firefighters in a dangerous situation,” Cox told the Riverside Press-Enterprise. “It’s burning in a straight line up a mountain.”
The blaze began as two adjacent fires reported Friday evening in Cherry Valley, an unincorporated area near the city of Beaumont about 85 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.
Flames leapt along brushy ridge tops and came close to homes while firefighters attacked it from the ground and air.
Evacuation orders and advisories were issued for about 8,000 people in mountain, canyon and foothill neighborhoods. Campgrounds and hiking trails were closed in the San Gorgonio Wilderness area of the San Bernardino National Forest.
A huge smoke plume was visible for miles around and contributed to poor air quality.
The mercury hit 109 degrees Sunday in nearby Palm Springs. The National Weather Service said “dangerously hot conditions” were expected to continue because of high pressure over much of Southern California.