Additional evacuation warnings issued for Apple Fire

The fire has burned over 29,000 acres north of Beaumont, California

Updated August 7, 2020 | 12:43 p.m. PDT

Smoke over the Apple Fire
Smoke over the Apple Fire as seen from Snow Peak, looking southeast at 12:28 p.m. PDT August 7, 2020.

The U.S. Forest Service said at about 11:30 a.m. Friday that the very large amount of smoke on the east side of the Apple Fire is the result of a burn out operation:

This is a planned event and has adequate aerial support and ground resources in the area. The smoke is a result of crews doing a burn out operation to remove fuels in front of the fire.

Smoke over the Apple Fire
Smoke over the Apple Fire as seen from Bear Mountain, looking southeast at 12:27 p.m. PDT August 7, 2020.
Smoke over the Apple Fire
U.S. Forest Service photo.

August 7, 2020 | 6:50 a.m. PDT

Map of the Apple Fire
Map of the Apple Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 10:58 p.m. PDT August 6, 2020. The white line was the perimeter about 48 hours before.

More evacuation warnings were issued Thursday for the Apple Fire which has been burning since July 31 north of Beaumont and Banning in southern California. One of the areas on the list is the community of Morongo Valley. A warning is one level below an evacuation order.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Apple Fire, including the most recent, click here.)

“There is a potential threat to life and/or property,” the Sheriff’s Department said. “Those who require additional time to evacuate, and those with pets and livestock should leave now.”

apple fire photo
This photo of the Apple Fire was shot by Sandy Wood August 1, 2020. It is looking east from Mill Creek in Forest Falls up to Mill Creek Jumpoff, with Galena Peak burning to the right.

A mapping flight at 10:58 p.m. Thursday determined that the Apple Fire had burned 29,267 acres. The largest concentrations of heat at that time were on the east side as it burned into Willard Canyon and Bear Wallow Spring.  Another area of intense heat was on the northwest side of the fire where it was spreading near Cedar Mountain.

Very Large Air Tankers, a DC-10 and a 747, at San Bernardino Air Tanker Base
Two Very Large Air Tankers, a DC-10 and a 747, at the San Bernardino Air Tanker Base 16 miles northwest of the Apple Fire. USFS photo.

From the Incident Management Team Thursday night:

“Firefighters made good progress in the Oak Glen area and were able to build direct line just below the fire. The fire is headed towards a rocky area. The smoke in this area was due to heavy fuels burning on the top of Yucaipa Ridge.

“The fire burned through heavy fuels in the Millard Canyon area, but stayed in place on the western slopes of Millard Canyon. Planes and helicopters built a line of fire retardant today in preparation for firing out a portion of the vegetation this evening. The goal is to build a containment line to prevent fire movement to the east to the communities of Morongo Valley and Pioneertown.

“The fire has stayed in place in the San Gorgonio Wilderness to the north. Firefighters have made good progress with mop-up and backhaul of trash and excess equipment in the origin area of Cherry Valley and Banning Canyon; this area will be in patrol status tomorrow.”

Pine Gulch Fire north of Grand Junction grows to nearly 12,000 Acres

August 6, 2020 | 1:43 p.m.  MDT

Pyrocumulus clouds form over the Pine Gulch Fire
Pyrocumulus clouds form over the Pine Gulch Fire north of Grand Junction, Colorado, August 5, 2020. Photo by Jennifer Deering.

Since the lightning-caused Pine Gulch Fire was discovered July 31 it has burned 11,846 acres 15 miles north of Grand Junction, Colorado. It was very active on Wednesday with most of the growth, an additional 6,161 acres, occurring on the northeast and northwest sides. The fire is expanding beyond lands managed by the Bureau of  Land Management onto private property.

Aerial resources are available again Thursday to assist firefighters on the ground. Four more engines and additional crews will be added to a “swing shift.” These crews will work the late afternoon to early morning hours on the south side of the fire to continue operations initiated during the day.

Map Pine Gulch Fire Grand Junction Colorado
Map of the Pine Gulch Fire at 9:31 p.m. MDT August 5, 2020.

A Red Flag Warning is in effect in the area from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. due to  gusty winds and hot, dry conditions. The forecast calls for wind gusts of 25 to 30 mph in the afternoon with very low humidity – near 10%. Conditions over next two days will be critical on the fire as activity is expected to increase, with the potential for high rates of spread.

Resources on the Pine Gulch Fire include 4 hand crews, 16 engines, 4 helicopters, and a variable number of air tankers for a total of 292 personnel.

A Type 2 Incident Management Team led by Incident Commander Troy Hagan is assigned.

Stagecoach Fire continues to burn in Kern County, California

August 6, 2020 | 7:28 a.m. PDT

Map of the Stagecoach Fire
Map of the Stagecoach Fire showing heat detected by a satellite as late as 3:12 a.m. PDT August 6, 2020.

The Stagecoach Fire 21 miles east of Bakersfield was very active Wednesday, putting up a large column of smoke as it spread into more rugged terrain primarily to the east and southeast. The fire is 9 miles south of the town of Lake Isabella.

Stagecoach Fire
Stagecoach Fire, from Breckenridge, at 7:16 am PDT Aug 6, 2020.

Wednesday at 7 p.m. fire officials with Kern County said it had burned 4,250 acres. Heat detected by satellites at 3:12 a.m. Thursday shows the fire could have grown by another 2,000 acres during the night (see map above). The unconfirmed satellite data indicates the Stagecoach Fire has moved into the Sequoia National Forest after burning on private property and land protected by the Bureau of Land Management.

Evacuations are in effect.


Stagecoach Fire
Stagecoach Fire as seen from Breckenridge, looking east at 6:18 pm PDT August 5, 2020.

As of Wednesday morning the Stagecoach Fire south of Lake Isabella in Kern County California had burned 4,100 acres, a spokesperson for CAL FIRE said. During the afternoon the intensity increased, sending up a large smoke column.

At least two homes have been destroyed as the fire continues to spread to the east.

Map of the Stagecoach Fire
Map of the Stagecoach Fire showing heat detected by a satellite as late as 2:54 p.m. PDT August 5, 2020.

Not much information about the fire is being released by Kern County.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Stagecoach Fire, including the most recent, click here.

Air Tanker 944, a 747, drops on the Stagecoach Fire
Air Tanker 944, a 747, drops on the Stagecoach Fire August 4, 2020. Photo by @SoCalFirePhoto.
CAL FIRE Dozer 1743 on the Stagecoach Fire
CAL FIRE Dozer 1743 on the Stagecoach Fire. CAL FIRE photo.
Air Tanker 944, a 747, drops on the Stagecoach Fire
Air Tanker 944, a 747, drops on the Stagecoach Fire August 4, 2020. Photo by @564fire.

Growth of the Apple Fire in southern California slows

But it is still spreading and has burned over 27,000 acres

Apple Fire
Apple Fire, San Bernardino NF, August 2, 2020. Screenshot from ABC7 video.

Normally a wildfire that adds about a thousand acres a day would be very newsworthy, but now that the Apple Fire has burned over 27,000 acres, an additional 500 or 1,000 acres a day is only about a three percent increase. That is what this large fire north of Beaumont and Banning, California has been doing for the last several days. Much of the fire has reached the very steep rocky slopes of the highest peaks in Southern California and the Transverse Ranges at 7,000 to 10,000 feet where firefighting is even more difficult than it is on flat ground in California.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Apple Fire, including the most recent, click here.)

Wednesday the incident management team said the fire was mapped at 27,319 acres.

On Tuesday and Tuesday night the fire was active in some areas on the east and west flanks. Ground crews continued to build line in the area of Pine Bench and made good progress on the western perimeter east of Oak Glen. Line building continued Wednesday up to Yucaipa Ridge which is a high priority in order to protect the Forest Falls and Oak Glen communities.

Map of the Apple Fire
Map of the Apple Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 11:10 p.m. PDT August 4, 2020. The yellow and red dots represent heat detected by a satellite in the 24-hour period ending at 2 p.m. PDT August 5, 2020.
CAL FIRE fighters Apple Fire
CAL FIRE fighters on the Apple Fire in the Oak Glen Area. CAL FIRE photo.

Stagecoach Fire burns thousands of acres south of Lake Isabella, CA

Evacuations are in effect

August 4, 2020 | updated at 9 p.m. PDT

Stagecoach Fire
Stagecoach Fire, looking east from Breckenridge Peak at 7:49 p.m. PDT August 4, 2020.

Not much information is available about the Stagecoach Fire that was reported at 3:29 p.m. August 3 South of Havilah, California in Kern County off Stagecoach Drive and Old Ox Road. Tuesday morning Kern County Fire Department said it had burned 2,500 acres, and updated the size to 3,500 acres at 8 p.m. The fire is spreading primarily to the east and northeast.

The Stagecoach Fire is burning on private property and land protected by the Bureau of Land Management between two large parcels of the Sequoia National Forest. It is 12 miles south of Lake Isabella and 22 miles east of Bakersfield. (See the map below.)

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Stagecoach Fire, including the most recent, click here.

Map of the Stagecoach Fire
Map of the Stagecoach Fire showing heat detected by a satellite as late as 2:18 p.m. PDT August 4, 2020.

Soon after it started Kern County said structures were threatened.

At 8 p.m. PDT we checked FlightRadar24 and saw that at least two air tankers were working the fire, a DC-10 and a BAe-146.

Below is an excerpt from an article at ABC23 in Bakersfield:

…One of the first homes to burn in the fire was a total loss. On Monday, 23ABC spoke with the home’s owners as they evacuated the area. Still emotional after losing their property, they thought fire crews should have done more.

“They said the road’s too narrow. We’re not going down there. We’re not defending that,” the homeowner said. “So they’re up in all the neighbor’s houses and everything. And the fire is going everywhere else, but it’s going straight up in our house and that’s it.”

Resources assigned to the Stagecoach Fire include 21 fire engines, 3 water tenders, 3 helicopters, 7 hand crews, 3 dozers, and a variable number of air tankers (up to 4 at one point), for a total of 242 personnel.

Investigators say the Apple Fire was caused by a vehicle

Hot carbon particles from the exhaust created multiple ignition points

Diesel carbon particles
File photo of diesel carbon particles (Photo from Guide to Wildland Fire Origin and Cause Determination)

Investigators have concluded the Apple Fire in southern California near Cherry Valley was caused by hot carbon particles from the exhaust system of a diesel-powered truck, which is not an uncommon cause of vegetation fires along roadways. Witnesses corroborated the investigators findings. At least three ignition points were found which all merged into one fire.

All internal combustion engines emit carbon particles which is why spark arrestors are required on chain saws, for example. The smallest are invisible, but particles from diesel engines can be much larger than those from small engines or gasoline engines. The bigger the engine, the larger the particles. As a qualified Cause and Origin Investigator I have picked up along railroads particles that were two inches long.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Apple Fire, including the most recent, click here.)

When a diesel engine begins ejecting carbon particles it can occur over a distance along a road or railroad. Multiple fire ignition points can be created.

Volatile hydrocarbons contained within the particle may extend the time the particle is thermally active. Larger particles may auto-ignite upon ejection and contact with the air.

A Diesel engine is more likely to throw out large carbon particles if it has been idling, it has suddenly been throttled up (such as pulling a heavy load up a hill), or if the engine is not running properly.

A discarded lit cigarette usually will not ignite dry grass unless the relative humidity is less than 22 to 25 percent, but carbon particles have been known to start fires at up to 80 percent. Many fires along roads blindly blamed on “someone tossing a cigarette” are more likely caused by hot carbon particles.

Pieces of catalytic converters can also be discharged from exhaust pipes. Normally catalytic converters can reach up to 1,380°F. When they malfunction and overheat they can break apart at temperatures of 2,400 to 2,800°F. Hot ceramic particles discharge from the exhaust system either through the tail pipe or through failures in the outer shell of the converter itself.

Apple Fire
The Apple Fire, San Bernardino NF, August 2, 2020. Screenshot from ABC7 video.

To learn more about investigating the cause of vegetation fires, spend some time with the 337-page “Guide to Wildland Fire Origin and Cause Determination” (NWCG publication, PMS 412).