The Apple Fire, which has burned in the San Bernardino National Forest for 17 days, remained at 90% containment and 33,424 acres Sunday as firefighters continued to mop up hot spots along fire lines and shore up the landscape.

So far, $51.8 million has been spent on fighting the Apple Fire, which is the largest fire seen in the region in over a decade.

Fire officials said light sprinkles fell briefly over the burn area Saturday evening but not enough to wet the ground. Although there was a 10% chance of showers in the area Sunday, an excessive heat warning will persist through next week.

Full containment was expected by noon Monday, the U.S. Forest Service said.

Command of the firefighting efforts was transferred Friday from the federal government’s California Incident Management Team 2 to the San Bernardino National Forest, which is in unified command with Cal Fire, according to Zach Behrens, a national forest spokesman.

Since sparking July 31 in Cherry Valley due to a diesel vehicle malfunction, the Apple Fire has injured four firefighters and destroyed four homes and eight outbuildings. An estimated 2,600 residences and 7,800 people were evacuated at the height of the blaze.

As of Sunday, 248 fire personnel remained on scene, aided by five water-dropping helicopters. All Cal Fire air tankers have departed.

Officials were expecting 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.

With fire lines holding, the Forest Service has begun assessing the severity of the damage caused by the fire in the San Bernardino National Forest earlier this week, looking into the variety of environmental impacts caused by the fire, including watershed damage that could spur dangerous flood conditions during the Southern California wet season, officials said.

“Significant progress has been made on suppression repair on Yucaipa Ridge. Recently burned areas are at a greater risk of mudflows and flash floods. Fires eliminate vegetation that can hold soil in place and charred ground may be unable to absorb water,” according to the Forest Service.

The blaze burned through federal, state and private lands, according to Cathleen Thompson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and several governmental agencies will have to conduct their own post-fire assessments as the forest service is doing in the national forest.

The Apple Fire also burned through the Morongo Band of Mission Indians reservation, and the damage to the reservation will be assessed by the U.S. Department of Interior.

“Tribal lands are considered federal land as they are managed jointly by the tribes and the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” Thompson said.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs falls under the U.S. Department of Interior.

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 had been lifted.

The nonprofit organization said it helped 183 people affected by the Apple Fire, served at least 2,196 meals and snacks, and provided more than 300 overnight hotel stays for evacuees.

The San Gorgonio Wilderness area — where 7,249 acres have burned due to the Apple Fire — remains closed to the public.

A portion of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail is also closed to all traffic between the Cottonwood Trailhead, near the community of San Gorgonio, and Forest Road 1N01.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *