CHERRY VALLEY, Calif. - The last evacuation warning associated with the nearly 33,000-acre Apple Fire burning in the San Bernardino National Forest was lifted on Monday for residents on both sides of Highway 62 in Morongo Valley, hours after containment hit 45%.
All mandatory evacuations have been lifted in connection with the fire, which has charred 32,905 acres since being sparked July 31 by a diesel vehicle malfunction, although a non-mandatory evacuation warning remains in effect in Morongo Valley in San Bernardino County.
But with winds set to pick up, firefighters remained watchful for any renewed flare-ups along the perimeter of the fire, which has destroyed four homes and eight outbuildings and resulted in injuries to three firefighters. An estimated 2,600 residences and 7,800 people were evacuated at the height of the blaze.
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As progress continues on fire containment lines, resources that are no longer needed will be released over the next several days, fire officials said.
Strike teams of engines that were utilized on the southern and western flanks will be reduced in number, but enough will remain to ensure adequate coverage. As of this morning, 2,295 fire personnel remained on scene, aided by 20 helicopters and two airplanes.
Firefighters battling the fire's western flank have shifted their focus from structure protection to pulling unneeded supplies from the front lines, officials said.
While companies with large fire trucks are released, companies with smaller fire engines that can travel over difficult terrain will remain as the focus shifts more to wildland areas.
Full containment is expected by Aug. 17.
Fire officials warned that civilians may still see smoke as islands of unburned vegetation within the fire perimeter burn until all hot spots are extinguished.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state will receive a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help ensure resources will be available to fight the fire. It will also allow local, state and tribal agencies responding to the fire to apply for 75% reimbursement of their eligible costs.
Officials estimated that 2,600 residences and 7,800 people have been evacuated since the blaze began.
The smoke column from the fire has been visible throughout much of Southern California.
The main fire progression is expected to continue to the northeast into the wilderness, with warmer and drier weather conditions expected to continue over the next couple of days.
The San Gorgonio Wilderness area remains closed.
A smoke advisory remained in effect Monday due to the possibility of smoke and ash coming into portions of the Coachella Valley, the San Gorgonio Pass, eastern Riverside County and the eastern San Bernardino Mountains, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District
Anyone with further information about the start of the fires was urged to call the Cal Fire hotline at 800-633-2836. Callers may remain anonymous.
A public information line regarding the fire was established at 909-383-5688.
CNS contributed to this report.