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RAGING INFERNO

Apple fire – Homes destroyed and 8,000 evacuated as wildfire blazes in Southern California

ALMOST 8,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes as a wildfire raged uncontained across more than 15,000 acres in Riverside County in Southern California.

The fire, dubbed the Apple Fire by local firefighters, was reported on Friday in Cherry Valley, a community about 75 miles east of Los Angeles and had destroyed at least one family home.

 The Apple Fire rages through Riverside County
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The Apple Fire rages through Riverside CountyCredit: Getty Images - Getty

Photographs shared by the Riverside County fire department on Twitter on Saturday showed thick plumes of smoke filling the sky over the mountainous region.

Residents of 2,586 homes, totaling around 7,800 people, had been told to evacuate, the fire department said.

The fire had grown from 700 acres on Friday evening to as many as 15,000 acres by Sunday morning and was 0 per cent contained, according to the County fire department and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

The fire was first reported on July 31 at 4.55pm, with reports that it may have been started by arson, although this has not been confirmed by authorities.

 Almost 8,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes
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Almost 8,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homesCredit: Getty Images - Getty
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 The wildfire raged uncontained across more than 15,000 acres in Riverside County
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The wildfire raged uncontained across more than 15,000 acres in Riverside CountyCredit: Getty Images - Getty
 The fire has been dubbed the Apple Fire by local firefighters
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The fire has been dubbed the Apple Fire by local firefightersCredit: Getty Images - Getty
 Firefighters routinely give blazes identifying names
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Firefighters routinely give blazes identifying namesCredit: Getty Images - Getty
 The fire is located in Cherry Valley, a community about 75 miles east of Los Angeles
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The fire is located in Cherry Valley, a community about 75 miles east of Los AngelesCredit: Getty Images - Getty
 The fire had destroyed at least one family home as of Saturday evening
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The fire had destroyed at least one family home as of Saturday eveningCredit: Getty Images - Getty
 A continuation of high temperatures and low humidity mean the fire is spreading fast
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A continuation of high temperatures and low humidity mean the fire is spreading fastCredit: Getty Images - Getty
 A helicopter drops water on the Apple Fire as an excessive heat warning continues
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A helicopter drops water on the Apple Fire as an excessive heat warning continuesCredit: Getty Images - Getty
 Firefighters wait in an open field as flames make their way across a hillside during the Apple fire near Banning, California
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Firefighters wait in an open field as flames make their way across a hillside during the Apple fire near Banning, CaliforniaCredit: AFP or licensors
 Horses graze as flames from the Apple fire skirt a ridge in a residential area of Banning, California on August 1, 2020
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Horses graze as flames from the Apple fire skirt a ridge in a residential area of Banning, California on August 1, 2020Credit: AFP or licensors
 A firefighter watches as a helicopter makes a water drop during the Apple fire
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A firefighter watches as a helicopter makes a water drop during the Apple fireCredit: AFP or licensors

Local resident Bryan Quan, who has lived in the area for a year said he was "angry".

"I'm angry that somebody could potentially light this," he told ABC7.

Two possible arson fires were reported on 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 pm, NBC reported.

Steep and rugged terrain in the area has made it difficult for crews on the ground to access the front line of the fire.

High temperatures and low humidity levels fueled the flames, which burned brush that hadn't caught fire in years.

"Lots of oils in, so when it's going up these canyons, it's creating all that heat because of those oils and those fuels," said Cal Fire Capt. Richard Cordova in a statement.

"And what you'll see is these big plumes of smoke going up, especially the darker (ones), and once it gets into the atmosphere, it'll start creating its own weather."

A family home and two outbuildings have been destroyed by the fire, while evacuation centers have been set up in hotels and a high school.

All evacuation centers will enforce temperature screenings before individuals are allowed to enter, fire department spokesperson Rob Roseen told CNN.

Hot temperatures, very low humidities and onshore winds means there is increased potential for plume growth over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.