Firefighters battling the Apple Fire burning in Riverside and San Bernardino counties were continuing to monitor flare-ups along the fire’s perimeter and shore up the landscape Tuesday amid an excessive heat warning and a slight chance of thunderstorms.
The fire, which remained 95% contained as of Tuesday morning, has burned 33,424 acres since sparking July 31 in Cherry Valley due to a diesel vehicle malfunction, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
So far, $51.8 million has been spent on fighting the Apple Fire, which is the largest blaze in the region in more than 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.
There were 248 fire personnel still on the scene Tuesday, aided by five water-dropping helicopters, according to the latest estimates provided by fire officials. All Cal Fire air tankers have left.
Remaining firefighters were focusing on monitoring and patrolling the fire’s perimeter, as well as fixing up swaths of land impacted by firefighting efforts.
Officials warned that pockets of vegetation burning within the fire perimeter could generate smoke at times.
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 in the San Bernardino National Forest last week, looking into a variety of environmental impacts caused by the fire, including watershed damage that could spur dangerous flood conditions during the Southern California wet season.
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 — 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.
All Forest Service recreation areas in the Forest Falls area were also closed, along with those in some adjacent areas.
Additional information about these closures can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/sbnf.