Rapid spread of California wildfires prompts evacuations

Taya Gray  The Desert Sun The Apple Fire continues to burn in the Banning bluff area of Riverside County on Saturday

Taya Gray The Desert Sun The Apple Fire continues to burn in the Banning bluff area of Riverside County on Saturday

Almost 8,000 residents of Riverside County in Southern California were forced to leave their homes on Saturday as a wildfire spread uncontained across more than 1,600 hectares, the county fire department said.

The colossal 1,600-hectare wildfire is far from being put out despite 374 firefighters and air support struggling to contain the inferno, covering the skies above large areas of southern California with smoke.

Officials confirmed in a tweet Saturday morning that the flames were zero percent contained.

Evacuation warnings and orders have been set for the Potato Canyon and the Oak Glen areas, as the fire has moved into San Bernardino County, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) on Saturday. But the two outbreaks grew exponentially within hours, leading authorities to issue the first evacuation orders by 7:30 p.m. for areas around the neighboring cities of Banning and Beaumont.

The Associated Press reported early in the day that the fire grew to almost three square miles overnight, prompting the evacuation of at least 200 homes. One house and two structures have reportedly been destroyed.

Firefighters worked in scorching heat that reached 107 degrees Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

The weather service said "dangerously hot conditions" were expected to continue into evening because of high pressure over the region.

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