The Apple Fire grew to 15,000-acres Sunday, burning at 0% containment in Cherry Valley, where it charred at least one home and was threatening dozens more.
Initially, two possible arson fires were reported at 5 p.m. Friday in the area of Apple Tree Lane and Oak Glen Road on the north end of the unincorporated community bordering Beaumont, and merged into one by 5:45 p.m., the RCFD said.
A third possible arson fire was also reported in the area and had blackened 60 to 80 acres by 7 p.m., according to reports from the scene. Firefighters sent to the location encountered the three blazes coalescing in a drainage with heavy vegetation.
A temporary evacuation center was established at Beaumont High School, 39139 Cherry Valley Blvd., with anyone going there subject to COVID-19 testing before being allowed in, fire department spokesman Fernando Herrera said.
The American Red Cross was assisting evacuees by putting them up in hotels.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory through Saturday evening for the Coachella Valley, San Gorgonio Pass and Hemet-San Jacinto Valley due to the fire. The agency urged residents in the area who smell smoke or see ash to limit their exposure by remaining indoors with windows and doors closed or to seek alternate shelter, and avoid vigorous physical activity.
As of 4:30 p.m. Saturday, 43 engine crews and 10 hand crews from the RCFD were on the ground battling the blaze, totaling 375 personnel.
Fire officials said triple-digit temperatures and low daytime humidity contributed to the fire’s growth.