Apple Fire in California sparked by vehicle malfunction, investigators say

Apple Fire: Thousands of California residents ordered to evacuate after devastating wildfire

CHERRY VALLEY, Calif. — Investigators have determined that burning carbon from the exhaust system of a diesel-fueled vehicle sparked the massive Apple Fire in Cherry Valley, California, on Friday that scorched more than 26,000 acres and displaced thousands of residents.

According to a joint statement released by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Riverside County Fire Department, “The determination is reinforced by multiple independent witnesses as well as supporting physical evidence.”

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“Much of the fire activity is being driven by the record-low moisture content of the vegetation in the area combined with high temperatures and low relative humidity. These conditions are contributing to active fire behavior both day and night,” officials wrote in an incident update, the Los Angeles Times reported.

No description of the vehicle is currently available, Cal Fire/Riverside County spokesman Capt. Fernando Herrera told The Mercury News.

Investigators are asking anyone who was driving in the 9000 block of Oak Glen Road just before 5 p.m. Friday, and who may have seen a vehicle that appeared to have mechanical problems or unusual smoke coming from it, to contact them on an anonymous hotline, 800-633-2836.

“Diesel vehicles shoot out that black soot,” Herrera told the newspaper.

“When that is shooting out, it does form some small particles. They can be from a pebble size, even up to a quarter size. And as those are emitted through the exhaust, they are extremely hot, so when they land on any type of dry fuel, it will ignite. In this case, that’s what (investigators) found,” he added.