Firefighters continued to battle a massive blaze in the mountains east of Los Angeles on Monday as thousands of local residents remain under evacuation orders.
The Apple Fire began burning July 31 in Riverside County, about 80 miles from Los Angeles. It had already scorched more than 26,000 acres by Monday night and Cal Fire said it was just 7% contained. The agency estimated the blaze should be fully contained by Aug. 17 should current conditions continue, although it noted the fire was burning in an area with “no recent fire history” and a glut of fuel.
More than 2,500 fire personnel were battling the flames.
Officials said the blaze was started by a car malfunction, noting “a diesel-fueled vehicle emitting burning carbon from the exhaust system” had sparked the fire.
“As the fire burns into the wilderness the vegetation is becoming sparse limiting fire intensity,” CalFire said Monday. “Fire activity is being driven primarily by record low moisture content of the vegetation combined with high temperatures and low relative humidity.”
The Los Angeles Times also noted that forecasters said wind could add to the challenges in bringing the fire under control.
The blaze was large enough to send a plume of smoke that was picked up by NASA satellites, the agency said. Health officials have issued smoke advisories for some areas through Tuesday, telling those affected to stay indoors and avoid physical activity.
The scale of the evacuations, which began Saturday, caused some concern amid the ongoing threat of the coronavirus pandemic. About 8,000 people were forced to leave their homes.