CHERRY VALLEY (CNS) – Containment of the Apple Fire burning in the San Bernardino National Forest increased to 60% as firefighters continued building containment lines around the blaze’s perimeter and began to repair some of the impacts of their struggle.
Since starting on July 31, the fire has charred 33,424 acres in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
With crews fortifying control lines and fire progression diminishing, operations will be begin to transition from 24-hour shifts to day shifts, according to the USFS.
The efforts will also turn to rehabilitation of the fire zone, officials noted in a statement.
“Firefighters will remove debris and dirt from culverts along dirt roads. In areas near roads and trails, handlines will be covered with vegetation to obscure visible impacts,” officials said. “Dozer lines will be repaired to ensure erosion control and then covered with vegetation. In places cleared of plants and used as safety zones for firefighters, crews will conceal the area with the discarded shrubs and limbs. Flagging and signage from suppression efforts will also be removed.”
Officials still expected wind gusts of up to 25 mph, and increasing temperatures through the weekend but said fire lines passed the test of winds earlier in the week.
The 1,446 fire personnel who remain on scene are being aided by two Cal Fire air tankers and 17 water-dropping helicopters dropping water to cool hot spots.
The American Red Cross announced Tuesday afternoon that all relief operations within the fire zone, including maintenance of services at a temporary evacuation center that had been established at Beaumont High School, were finished because all evacuation orders have been lifted.
“The Red Cross has helped 183 people affected by the Apple Fire,” according to a statement by the nonprofit organization.
“The Red Cross and partners have served over 2,196 meals and snacks and provided more than 300 overnight hotel stays for evacuees since the Apple Fire began.”
Anyone in need of further assistance was urged to call the organization’s Disaster Dispatch center at 855-891-7325, or visit redcross.org/wildfire.
Full containment of the fire is expected Sunday or Monday.
The San Gorgonio Wilderness area — where 7,249 acres have burned due to the Apple Fire — remains closed to the public.
The flames 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.
While the South Coast Air Quality Management District did not extend its smoke advisory for portions of the Coachella Valley, the San Gorgonio Pass, eastern Riverside County and the eastern San Bernardino Mountains, the agency continued to caution that unhealthy air quality for sensitive groups will linger further into the week.
Residents with questions or concerns about the fire can call 909-383-5688.