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Thousands Evacuated From CA Wildfire   08/03 06:16


   BANNING, Calif. (AP) -- Evacuation orders remained in place early Monday for 
thousands of people after a wildfire in mountains east of Los Angeles exploded 
in size and forced crews to battle flames in triple-digit heat.

   The Apple Fire in Riverside County consumed more than 31 square miles (about 
80 square kilometers) of dry brush and timber, according to the California 
Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

   As of Monday morning, it was 5% contained. The cause was under investigation.

   Officials allowed flames to run up the side of Mount San Gorgonio, an 
11,000-foot (3,350-meter) peak, because it wasn't safe to let crews work in 
such steep, rugged terrain, said Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest 

   "We don't want to put firefighters in a dangerous situation," Cox told the 
Riverside Press-Enterprise. "It's burning in a straight line up a mountain."

   The blaze began as two adjacent fires reported Friday evening in Cherry 
Valley, an unincorporated area near the city of Beaumont about 85 miles (137 
kilometers) east of downtown Los Angeles.

   Flames leapt along brushy ridge tops and came close to homes while 
firefighters attacked it from the ground and air.

   One home and two outbuildings were destroyed, Cal Fire said. No injuries 
were reported.

   Evacuation orders and advisories were issued for about 8,000 people in 
mountain, canyon and foothill neighborhoods. Campgrounds and hiking trails were 
closed in the San Gorgonio Wilderness area of the San Bernardino National 

   A huge smoke plume was visible for miles around and contributed to poor air 

   The mercury hit 109 degrees (43 Celsius) Sunday in nearby Palm Springs. The 
National Weather Service said "dangerously hot conditions" were expected to 
continue because of high pressure over much of Southern California.

   To the north, the Pond Fire in San Luis Obispo County was 10% contained 
Sunday after burning more than 2 square miles of (6 square kilometres) brush 
east of Santa Margarita. The blaze destroyed two structures but officials said 
it was unclear whether they were homes.

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