California is burning: 1,300 firefighters battle massive wildfire
PIC: AFP

Evacuation orders remained in place early Monday for thousands of people after a wildfire in mountains east of Los Angeles exploded in size and forced crews to battle flames in triple-digit heat.

The Apple Fire in Riverside County consumed more than 31 square miles (about 80 square kilometers) of dry brush and timber, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

As of Monday morning, it was 5% contained. The cause was under investigation. Officials allowed flames to run up the side of Mount San Gorgonio, an 11,000-foot peak, because it wasn't safe to let crews work in such steep, rugged terrain, said Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for the US Forest Service.

"We don't want to put firefighters in a dangerous situation," Cox told the Riverside Press-Enterprise. "It's burning in a straight line up a mountain." The blaze began as two adjacent fires reported Friday evening in Cherry Valley, an unincorporated area near the city of Beaumont about 85 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

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