Officials release cause of Apple Fire in Cherry Valley as fire grows to over 26,000 acres

Investigators Monday determined that the Apple Fire that ignited in Cherry Valley on Friday and has scorched more than 26,450 acres, sparked as a result of a vehicle malfunction.

"Specifically, a diesel-fueled vehicle emitting burning carbon from the exhaust system," CAL FIRE wrote in a press release. "The determination is reinforced by multiple independent witnesses, as well as supporting physical evidence.

The fire has been burning for four days and has destroyed at least one home and two out buildings while threatening dozens more, fire officials said. As if 3 p.m. Monday, the fire was only 5 percent contained.

Several evacuations are in place in both Riverside and San Bernardino counties.  

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An emergency closure order was put in place Sunday prohibiting all entry into the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area, including the Pacific Crest Hiking Trail between the Forest Boundary and Forest Road 1N01.  

Residents north of Wilson Street, east of Sunset Avenue and west of Hathaway Street in Banning, were ordered to evacuate at 2:15 p.m. Saturday as flames crept toward the neighborhood, according to the Riverside County Emergency Management Department.

On Saturday morning, fire crews said one single-family dwelling and two outbuildings were destroyed near Avenida Miravilla.

EVACUATIONS / CLOSURES:

For Riverside County Residents: Please visit https://www.rivcoready.org/ActiveEvents for an interactive map that will allow you to enter your address to see if you are in an evacuation area.  

For San Bernardino County Residents: The community of Oak Glen is under an evacuation order. Forest Falls, Pioneertown, and Rim Rock are all under an evacuation warning.

The San Gorgonio Wilderness has been closed to all use. An Emergency Forest Closure Order was in effect as of August 2, 2020.

The order prohibits all entry into the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area.  This order also includes the Pacific Crest Hiking Trail between the Forest Boundary and Forest Road 1N01. Additionally, all Forest Service recreation areas in the Forest Fall area are closed.

A hard road closure was in place along North Sunset at Wilson and North San Gorgonio Avenue at Summit Drive, according to the Banning Police Department.  

Oak Glen Road between Cherry Valley Boulevard and Wildwood Canyon Road was also shut down.

Residents on Avenida Mira Villa are under mandatory evacuations. Residents on Oak Glen Road in the vicinity of Bogart Park are asked to voluntarily evacuate. Evacuation orders are in place for residents south of County Line Rd, north of Dutton St and east of Oak Glen Rd. 

An evacuation warning was also issued for residents north of Wilson Street in Banning due to the Cherry Fire.

On Saturday afternoon, officials announced new evacuation orders for those living north of Wilson St, east of Sunset Ave and west of Hathaway St. 

An evacuation order was issued for the area north of Cherry Valley Boulevard, west of Highland Springs Avenue and east of Beaumont Avenue. An evacuation center was established at Beaumont High School, located at 39139 Cherry Valley Blvd. in Beaumont.

The evacuation orders were then expanded for homes north of Wilson Street, east of Sunset Avenue and west of Hathaway Street. The Oak Glen community was also placed under an evacuation order.

Due to the ongoing pandemic and safety concerns, those entering the evacuation shelter will be screened for COVID-19. 

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Plumes of smoke could be seen for miles. 

The fire was first reported Friday around 5 p.m. in the area of Apple Tree Lane and Oak Glen Road, on the north end of the unincorporated community, which borders Beaumont, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

The initial on scene units reported multiple spot fires burning alongside Oak Glen Road and s significant augmentation of resources were requested to the incident, CAL FIRE reported.

Thirty engine crews and 10 hand crews, numbering well over 200 personnel, were sent to the location and encountered the three blazes coalescing in drainage with heavy vegetation.

Four Cal Fire air tankers and two water-dropping helicopters were immediately summoned to make runs on the wildfires.

An Orange County Fire Authority strike team consisting of five engines and a strike team leader are assisting Riverside County firefighters battling fires in Cherry Valley, according to the OCFA.

Along with county fire crews and Orange County and Anaheim Fire and Rescue firefighters, personnel from the Calimesa, Morongo, Murrieta, Palm Springs, Pechanga, San Bernardino and Soboba fire departments were sent to assist under a mutual aid request.

No injuries have been reported.

The American Red Cross was assisting evacuees by putting them up in hotels.  

The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory through Sunday evening for the Coachella Valley, San Gorgonio Pass and Hemet-San Jacinto Valley due to the fire.

The agency urged residents in the area who smell smoke or see ash to limit their exposure by remaining indoors with windows and doors closed or to seek alternate shelter, and avoid vigorous physical activity.  

At the request of the fire department, Southern California Edison turned off electricity along Oak Glen Road and surrounding side streets to prevent additional fires from breaking out as burned power poles collapsed and dropped transmission lines. The practice is known as a "public safety power shutoff." 

CNS contributed to this report.