Investigators looking into the cause of the 33,424-acre Apple fire that burned from Cherry Valley in Riverside County into the San Bernardino National forest released photos Tuesday of a “vehicle of interest” — images of a semi-tractor belching a cloud of exhaust as it was driven where the fire started.

Cal Fire/Riverside County arson detectives said shortly after the July 31 start of the fire that witnesses reported the blaze was ignited by debris spewed from a vehicle’s faulty diesel exhaust system as it traveled north along Oak Glen Road just before 5 p.m.

Before Tuesday, there was no photo or description of the vehicle. The released pictures are blurry, but distinct enough to show a semi-tractor, appearing white in color, and without a trailer. A long stream of exhaust trails behind.

Investigators did not describe the vehicle in the news release, but said its image was captured as it was moving along Oak Glen Road at 4:51 p.m.

Witnesses called at 4:55 p.m. to report the start of the wildfire along Oak Glen Road and Apple Tree Lane. Investigators did not say where the got the image.

Cal Fire is asking for information for drivers who may have been on Oak Glen Road between Apple Tree Lane and Wildwood Canyon Road on July 31 between 4:50 p.m. and 4:55 p.m.

The agency has an anonymous tip line at 800-633-2836.

Four people were injured and four homes destroyed in the Apple fire, which burned into the rugged San Gorgonio Wilderness and forced its closure for weeks, along with a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail.


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