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Apple Valley Vegetation Fire Sparked By Controlled Burn, Destroying Outbuilding, Military Vehicle

APPLE VALLEY ( — Strong winds caused a permitted controlled burn to spread through Apple Valley Tuesday, destroying a military vehicle and an outbuilding, and threatening dozens of homes, according to fire officials.

A vegetation fire was reported at 11:50 a.m. when wind shifted during the burn conducted by San Bernardino County Regional Parks at Mojave Narrows Regional Park, San Bernardino County Fire Department spokesperson Tracey Martinez said.

By 4 p.m., the blaze had expanded to 70 acres, threatening around 100 structures in the area of Riverside Drive and Seneca. An outbuilding and a 30-year-old military Humvee were destroyed. Crews estimate they saved a few dozen homes.

"Unfortunately, everybody knows the winds in the desert. They can pick up and just start blowing erratically and that's exactly what occurred. The wind took the fire and quickly spread it into the Mojave riverbed," Martinez said.

Residents living along Riverside Drive north of Seneca were forced to evacuate their homes for hours with gusts kicking up to 25mph. The evacuations were lifted around 7 p.m., with Riverside Drive open to residents only.

It was a relief for locals, who were on edge as they watched windy conditions pushing flames toward homes in the early evening.

"I'm just scared to death, you know," said Apple Valley resident Michael Campanella. "I just pray that my house is still going to be there standing, you know, when this is all done. I was working when I got a phone call that the riverbed was on fire. I got home as soon as I could and just had enough [time] to be able to get my animals out and load them in my car and the shirt on my back is pretty much all I have left."

Another man described the scene as a "war zone."

"You never expect this to happen to you or anyone you know. It's like a war zone," he said, recalling a failed attempt to save the Humvee, which he said belonged to a friend.

Fire officials said the blaze was 30 percent contained as of 10 p.m.

No injuries were reported.

Multiple strike teams, dozers, water-dropping helicopters and over 200 personnel were called to work the fire.

County officials say they will investigate to make sure policies and procedures were followed during the controlled burn.

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