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Cherry Valley residents recount harrowing early Apple Fire moments

The Apple Fire continues to burn to the west of the Coachella Valley, charring more than 26,000 acres with 7 percent containment as of Monday night.

Investigators said Monday it was started from a faulty diesel truck's exhaust pipe.

Dramatic new video shows early moments of the fire as it charged toward Cherry Valley homes.

"This 60-foot wall of flame just started shooting up and I just started running for my backyard," said Glenn Willworth, one of the first in the fire's path.

He said he rushed to get his family and animals down the mountain before grabbing his garden hose – doing anything he could to help fire crews ultimately save his home.

"I thought my house was gone," Willworth said. "There was just no way it could have been standing. It was fast, it was big and it was not good at all."

Monday the out-of-control brush fire grew by more than 6,000 acres as more than 2,000 firefighters struggled with containment. The wind fanned it to the northeast, closer to the Coachella Valley. Nearly 8,000 people in its path have evacuated.

All through Cherry Valley, there are charred landscapes just a couple of feet from people's homes.

New video shows the moments just after the fire erupted on Eric Triplett's property. It captures a fire retardant drop plane swooping in – and Triplett cheering as his ranch was spared.

He said the faulty diesel truck investigators believe to have started the Apple Fire drove right past him.

"It was blowing smoke and billowing and just having a tough time getting up the hill," Triplett said.

That moment cascaded to the brink of catastrophe, somehow narrowly averted for thousands in Cherry Valley.

"All these homes, they shouldn't be standing but they're still standing," Willworth said. "Everything around them –completely torched, but we're still here. So i feel good about that."

Several structures have been lost in the fire. A CalFire official said fighting this fire is only going to get more difficult as it spreads east toward the desert, thanks to the temperature and terrain.

The smoke from the Apple Fire has made it as far as Tuscon.

As a precautionary measure, San Bernardino Fire has staged a strike team in Pioneertown, approximately 10 miles from where the fire is burning.

Pioneertown and Rimrock residents are under an evacuation warning. Residents are encouraged to sign up for emergency alerts by clicking here.

You can reach Jake on TwitterFacebook or email him at jake.ingrassia@kesq.com.

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Jake Ingrassia

Joining News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 as a reporter, Jake is excited to be launching his broadcasting career here in the desert. Learn more about Jake here.

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