Firefighters at the Apple fire in Cherry Valley were focusing their efforts Saturday morning, Aug. 1, on reinforcing fire breaks in the Banning Bench area.

Flames have consumed 1,900 acres, and there was 0% containment. One home was destroyed near Avenida Miravilla, northwest of Bogart Regional Park.

The head of the fire was in the canyon below the Banning Bench, where homes were in danger.

 

But the fire mostly was just smoking, Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department Capt. Fernando Herrera said.

“We don’t have any raging flames that you would expect right now,” he said about 8:30 a.m.

That could change as the humidity decreases during the day, Herrera said. The winds were expected to be breezy but lacking strong gusts that could rapidly spread any flames, he added.

Aircraft dropping flame retardant and water were overhead as Herrera spoke.

Evacuations remained in place.

The expected 100-degree temperatures will not affect how the fire is fought, except that firefighters will be taking more breaks and will be mindful of being hydrated, Herrera said.

Two possible arson fires were reported at 5 p.m Friday in the area of Apple Tree Lane and Oak Glen Road, on the north end of the unincorporated community bordering Beaumont and merged into one by 5:45 p.m., Cal Fire said Friday.

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

The Orange County Fire Authority sent a strike team consisting of five engines and a strike team leader and a crew of wildland firefighters to assist Riverside County firefighters. Anaheim Fire and Rescue crews also assisted firefighters in Cherry Valley.

A third possible arson fire was also reported in the area and had burned 60 to 80 acres as of 7 p.m., according to reports from the scene.

Sheriff’s deputies shut down Oak Glen Road between Cherry Valley Boulevard and Wildwood Canyon Road, and shortly before 6 p.m., multiple streets came under mandatory evacuation orders, impacting an estimated 1,000 residents in 150 homes, officials said.

Evacuations were ordered for residents in the Banning Bench area and a road closure was in place along North Sunset Avenue at Wilson Street and North San Gorgonio Avenue at Summit Drive, according to the Banning Police Department.

Evacuation orders were extended at 11 p.m. to north of Cherry Valley Boulevard, between Beaumont and Highland Springs avenues, Cal Fire said.

A temporary evacuation center was established at Beaumont High School, 39139 Cherry Valley Blvd., and anyone who goes there is subject to COVID-19 testing before being allowed inside, Herrera said.

At the request of the Fire Department, Southern California Edison turned off electricity along Oak Glen Road and on 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.”

On Friday, witnesses reportedly called 911 as the fires started, stating a man was seen walking along Apple Tree Lane, igniting each blaze. Arson investigators were dispatched to the area. Herrera said he was unable to confirm that information Saturday. The investigation was ongoing, he said.

Along with Orange County fire crews, firefighters from the Calimesa, Morongo, Murrieta, Palm Springs, Pechanga, San Bernardino and Soboba fire departments assisted.





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