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article imageThousands evacuated in Southern California as wildfire rages

By Karen Graham     Aug 3, 2020 in Environment
Banning - 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, near Banning, California has consumed over 41 square miles (80 square kilometers) as of this morning.
The blaze, designated the Apple Fire, began as two adjacent fires on Friday afternoon in the Cherry Valley community near the city of Beaumont about 85 miles (137 kilometers) east of downtown Los Angeles. As of Monday morning, it was only 5 percent contained.
Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service, said flames were allowed to run up the side of Mount San Gorgonio, an 11,000-foot (3,350-meter) peak, because it wasn’t safe to let crews work in such steep, rugged terrain, according to CTV News Canada.
“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 heat also hampered firefighters, with temperatures reaching 109 degrees (43 Celsius) 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.
Weather.com senior meteorologist Chris Dolce said temperatures are forecast to drop closer to average early this week, but it will still be hot and dry. "The fuels are there, and they’re ripe," Daron Wyatt, a spokesman for incident commanders, told the Press-Enterprise.
Evacuation orders 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. Cal Fire is reporting that one home and two outbuildings were destroyed near Avenida Miravilla on Saturday.
Nearly 2,300 firefighters are involved in battling the fire, using all the resources available to them, including helicopters, fixed-wing air tankers, ground equipment and hand-crews. The South Coast Air Quality Management District said smoke from the fire could cause air quality problems.
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