The U.S. Forest Service expects to have full control Monday of the Apple Fire, which broke out in Cherry Valley more than two weeks ago and quickly spread into the San Bernardino National Forest.
The fire, which was 95% contained as of Monday morning, has charred 33,424 acres since being sparked July 31 by a diesel vehicle malfunction.
Firefighters were continuing to monitor flare-ups along the fire’s perimeter and shore up the landscape amid an excessive heat warning and a slight chance of thunderstorms.
So far, $51.8 million has been spent on fighting the Apple Fire, which is the largest blaze in the region in over a decade.
The 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 left.
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.
With fire lines holding, the Forest Service began assessing the severity of the damage caused by the fire in the San Bernardino National Forest last 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.
“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 San Gorgonio Wilderness area — where 7,249 acres have burned due to the Apple Fire — remained closed to the public.
A portion of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail was also closed to all traffic between the Cottonwood Trailhead, near the community of San Gorgonio, and Forest Road 1N01.