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California's Apple Fire Destroys More Than 20,000 Acres

A brush fire burns amid the Apple Fire in Banning, Calif. on Saturday.
Ringo H.W. Chiu
A brush fire burns amid the Apple Fire in Banning, Calif. on Saturday.

Multiple wildfires are spreading across California, forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes in the midst of a global pandemic.

As of Sunday morning, there are 15 separate fires raging throughout the state, according to Cal Fire. The state's three largest fires have already burned through more than 50,000 acres of land.

In Riverside County in Southern California, the Apple Fire was 12% contained on Sunday morning with more than 12,000 acres burned, according to Cal Fire. But by 1:30 p.m. EST, the acreage grew to 20,516 and the containment went down to 1%, according to David Cruz, a public information officer for the agency.

Over 1,360 firefighters are fighting the Apple blaze, which began as two adjacent fires and was reported on Friday shortly after 5 p.m. PST, according to the Riverside County Fire Department. Officials ordered evacuations for about 7,800 people and 2,500 homes. No injuries have been reported, but one home and two outbuildings have been destroyed, the fire department tweeted.

The National Weather Service in Los Angeles tweeted that the "hot temperatures, very low humidities, and locally breezy onshore winds" could contribute to plume growth with the fires. The National Weather Service in Southern California issued an excessive heat warning in response.

"Warm temperatures early this morning, especially in the foothills will make for an early start to dangerous heat conditions. It will be very warm again on Monday, and there is a chance that the heat advisory may have to be extended through Monday evening," the National Weather Service advisory read.

In Lassen County in Northern California, the Gold Fire is 90% contained but has already burned more than 22,000 acres of land, while the Hog fire is 93% contained after burning nearly 10,000 acres. Three people were injured, 13 structures were destroyed and five structures damaged in the Gold Fire, according to the Record Searchlight. Two structures were reported destroyed in the Hog Fire.

Evacuation centers for the Apple Fire have been set up at a local high school, where COVID-19 protocols will be enforced, Cruz said, while evacuations orders have been lifted for the Gold Fire and the Hog Fire.

The multiple blazes are hitting as the state continues to grapple with an average of 8,594 new cases per day, according to tracking by NPR. Since January, there have been more than 506,000 cases — the most in the nation — and nearly 9,00 deaths from COVID-19 in the state.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.