At least one home and two outbuildings were destroyed by the Apple Fire, which began shortly before 5 p.m. Friday near Oak Glen Road and Apple Tree Lane. No injuries have been reported.
Responding firefighters in the air and on the ground attacked the flames in an effort to protect homes that were threatened, performing water drops from helicopters and establishing fire lines.
Steep and rugged terrain made it difficult for crews on the ground to access the front lines. High temperatures and low humidity levels fueled the flames, which were scorching the brush that hadn't burned in years.
"Lots of oils in, so when it's going up these canyons, it's creating all that heat because of those oils and those fuels," said Cal Fire Capt. Richard Cordova. And what you'll see is these big plumes of smoke going up, especially the darker (ones), and once it gets into the atmosphere, it'll start creating its own weather."
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 in San Bernardino County was also placed under an evacuation order.
NEW EVACUATION WARNING issued for the area north of Morongo Rd, east of Millard Canyon Rd, and west of Whitewater Canyon Rd.— CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department (@CALFIRERRU) August 2, 2020
An interactive map, where you can search the status of your address can be found at https://t.co/2S9I5zv25f. https://t.co/ouQu1CM3IT
Voluntary evacuation orders were issued for residents in the Forest Falls area, but the order was later downgraded to an evacuation warning.
Residents in those areas, like Craig Parker, were hoping the fire wouldn't spread toward their homes.
"We saw the fire crest, but the wind did die down and we were hoping it was going to stop, maybe burn itself out over night," Parker said. "It still looked good this morning but no, the wind kicked up."
Nearly 2,600 homes, totaling some 7,800 people, were effected by the evacuation orders orders, fire officials said.
Firefighters can again expect triple-digit temperatures in the area as they continue to battle the flames on Saturday.
Crews are expected to focus their efforts on the Banning Bluff area, said Captain Fernando Herrera of Cal Fire Riverside. "The fire made a good run last night, threatened a lot of the homes," he said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation but authorities say it likely may be a case of arson.
#AppleFIRE Morning Update 08/01/2020 6:30 a.m. - Morning Update 08/01/2020 6:30 a.m. The fire is 1900 acres and 0% contained. All Evacuation Orders remain in place. CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire is in Unified Command with the USFS, Riverside County Sheriff's Department and CHP pic.twitter.com/O10yKjd9Ee— CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department (@CALFIRERRU) August 1, 2020