CHERRY VALLEY (CNS) – A diesel vehicle emitting combustibles from its exhaust system ignited the 26,000-acre Apple Fire that started in Cherry Valley and is now raging in the mountains within the San Bernardino National Forest, authorities announced Monday, Aug. 3 afternoon.
According to Cal Fire investigators, the malfunctioning vehicle was leaking burning matter from its exhaust pipe, triggering three separate blazes that eventually merged into one about 5 p.m. Friday in the area Apple Tree Lane and Oak Glen Road.
“The determination is reinforced by multiple independent witnesses, as well as supporting physical evidence,” according to a Riverside County Fire Department statement.
“Officers are seeking information from anyone who may have seen a vehicle which appeared to have mechanical problems, or unusual smoke emitting from it. If you were driving on Oak Glen Road at the time the fires were small, Cal Fire peace officers want to talk to you.”
Anyone with information was urged to call the Cal Fire hotline at 800-633-2836. Callers may remain anonymous.
There had been unverified reports of a man walking along the roadway, igniting fires amid the brittle dry conditions and triple-digit heat.
The Apple Fire was 5% contained this morning, burning to the northeast, with the head of the fire on a mountainside in San Bernardino County, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Cal Fire air tankers and water-dropping helicopters were working to establish containment boundaries, as more than 2,000 personnel on the ground gradually attempted to encircle the brusher.