Fire officials say the Apple Fire in Riverside county that has forced thousands of residents to evacuate from their homes and burned more than 26,850 acres was sparked by a malfunctioning diesel vehicle.
According to Fernando Herrera, a spokesman with California's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, witnesses spotted a vehicle in Cherry Valley spewing large diesel particles out of its exhaust system Friday afternoon.
“They’re almost like a small marble, sometimes larger, and when they land on dry vegetation, they're extremely hot," said Herrera. "They can ignite any type of fuel."
Authorities are asking anyone who might have been in the area at the time and saw the vehicle to come forward and speak with investigators. Tips can also be turned in anonymously at (800) 633-2836.
The blaze, egged on by high temperatures and low humidity, has burned nearly 42 square miles of dry brush and timber since it broke out Friday evening, fire officials said. At least two outbuildings have been destroyed by the blaze, but so far, no injuries have been reported.
More than 2,000 firefighters, aided by water-dropping aircraft, have been battling the blaze, which is only 15 percent contained as of Tuesday morning. The wildfire has forced nearly 8,000 people to be evacuated from their homes in San Bernardino County.
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