EDITOR’S NOTE: This article incorrectly stated 22 members of the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District were dispatched to the Apple Fire. Nine RSF personnel, including a battalion chief, went to the Apple Fire, along with 13 other members from Carlsbad Fire Department and North County Fire Protection District.
RANCHO SANTA FE — After nine days battling a sprawling wildfire in the foothills of the San Bernardino National Forest, firefighters from the San Diego area, including nine members of the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District, have returned home.
As of Wednesday, the 33,424-acre blaze known as the Apple Fire was 60% contained, stretching northeast from Banning Canyon into the San Gorgonio Wilderness and resting near the base of Little San Gorgonio Peak.
RSF Battalion Chief Bruce Sherwood told The Coast News he sent himself and four crew members with OES Fire Engine No. 336 (a large, bright yellow truck) and four crew members with Brush Rig No. 261, a wildland fire engine designed for off-road travel and capable of carrying up to 1,500 gallons of water.
Several other brush rigs were sent from different RSF Fire district stations.
The Apple Fire was first reported on July 31 and Sherwood’s strike team was assembled and arrived on-site early the next morning. The origin of the blaze was determined to be “human-caused,” spreading into portions of both San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
“I’ve seen a lot of big fires but this one was kind of middle of the road,” Sherwood said. “It burned very intensely for a couple of days and then there is the follow-up to make sure the hot spots are out.”
In total, approximately 1,446 firefighters and personnel were dispatched to the area from California and Arizona, in addition to 67 fire engines, 12 helicopters, 27 hand crews and two fixed-wing airplanes.
Sherwood, who has worked at the Rancho Santa Fe fire department for 20 years, said some fire crews will remain at the Apple Fire for the next month.
According to InciWeb, a Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team, a group of highly-skilled resource specialists, will arrive shortly to “address post-fire stabilization issues, such as loss of vegetation, soil erosion, flooding, habitat disturbance and cultural resource management.”
Sherwood said that once his crew members returned home, they cleaned up their gear and returned to their daily work duties as first responders and medical aides.
While assisting with wildland fires, firefighters typically work 24-hour shifts and can be deployed for up to 21 days at a time.
“(There are) no large woodland incidents in the state right now, but we are all geared up and ready to go when we get called,” Sherwood said.
On the morning of August 13, RSF Fire announced that it was sending OES Fire Engine No. 336 to join a strike team at the Lake Fire in the Angeles National Forest in unincorporated Los Angeles County.
According to an RSF Fire spokesperson, most of the firefighters from the Apple Fire were not deployed to the Lake Fire.