US & Canada

Apple Fire: Massive California wildfire forces evacuations

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Media captionThousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes to escape the fire east of Los Angeles

Fire crews in California are battling a massive wildfire that has forced thousands of people from their homes east of Los Angeles.

More than 1,300 firefighters, backed by helicopters and water-dumping planes, have been tackling the blaze dubbed the Apple Fire which started on Friday.

Parts of the fire are on steep, rugged hillsides, making it hard for fire engines to reach.

Around 7,800 residents have been told to evacuate the area.

Images show plumes of smoke filling the sky over the mountainous region. In a tweet, the National Weather Service said some smoke had blown east to Phoenix, Arizona - nearly 300 miles (482km) away.

The wildfire began as two adjacent blazes in Cherry Valley, an area near the city of Beaumont.

It has since stretched out to 26,450 acres (10,703 hectares), according to Cal Fire, the agency battling the wildfire.

As of Monday morning, fire-fighters say it is 5% contained.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Roughly terrain has made it dangerous for firefighters, the US Forest Service said

The government body said the blaze had been fuelled by high temperatures, low humidity and dry vegetation in the area.

Here are some key guidelines for protecting yourself against Covid-19 if you must evacuate to a shelter:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Keep six feet of distance from anyone not among your household
  • Wear a face covering when possible, and if possible, wash it regularly
  • Avoid sharing food and drinks
  • Frequently disinfect your area in the shelter (including toys and electronics)

The US Forest Service told the Riverside Press-Enterprise, a local newspaper, that because the fire was on rugged terrain, it was dangerous for firefighters to try and surround it.

"We don't want to put fire-fighters in a dangerous situation," said spokesperson Lisa Cox. "It's burning in a straight line up a mountain."

Ms Cox on Monday told CBS News: "Given the fuel, given the weather, given the topography and where this is going, this fire is not going to stop tonight, it's going to keep going."