Firefighters continued building containment lines overnight around the perimeter of the Apple Fire burning in the San Bernardino National Forest, boosting overall containment to 55% Tuesday.
“As crews fortify control lines and fire progression diminishes, operations will be transitioning from 24-hour shifts to day shift(s) only tomorrow,” the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement Tuesday morning.
With wind speeds expected to reach 45 miles per hour on certain ridge tops Tuesday, fire officials were planning for potential new flare-ups on the fire’s southern flank, where crews were set to beef up patrols.
Nearly 500 firefighters were released from the fire Monday, which has so far burned 33,234 acres in Riverside and San Bernardino counties since being sparkled July 31 by a diesel vehicle malfunction in Cherry Valley. The 1,719 fire personnel who remain on scene are being aided by two airplanes and 17 helicopters.
While companies with large fire trucks continue to be released, companies with smaller fire engines that can travel over difficult terrain will remain as the focus shifts more to wildland areas.
Full containment is expected by Aug. 17.
On Monday, the last evacuation warning was lifted for residents on both sides of Highway 62 in Morongo Valley.
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 district’s forecast envisions unhealthy air quality for sensitive groups in those areas on Tuesday.
Residents with questions or concerns about the fire can call 909-383-5688.