By CBSLA Staff

BANNING (CBSLA) — A dog that went missing during the Apple Fire in the Cherry Valley area was back home Wednesday night.

Buck, a curious Blue Heeler who disappeared for three days after chasing a coyote escaping the Apple Fire, was returned to his owner Wednesday. (Credit: CBSLA)

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“It was one big, orange flame all the way around the house,” Greg Skeens, a Banning resident, said. “And I thought we were gonna die.”

The flames from the wildfire burned right up to the deck around Skeens’s log cabin. And the home would have burned down if it was not for the firefighters who stood their ground making sure the home made it through without damage.

But little did Skeens know that there were other dangers ahead as the flames sent a wave of wild animals out of the hills and onto his property — right in front of his curious Blue Heeler, Buck.

“He’s chasing a coyote three times his size,” Skeens said. “But what he don’t know, coyotes eat dogs.”

Buck ran after the coyote and did not come back, leaving Skeens to believe the worst had happened.

“I thought he was gone,” he said.

But Orange County firefighters found the scared pup out in the fire line and carried him to safety, putting him in the care of local animal control officers who were able to figure out that Buck belonged to Skeens.

“And just when she handed him to me, he got all happy,” Skeens said.

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The flames of the Apple Fire lit the sky in front of Greg Skeens’s Banning home bright orange shortly before his Blue Heeler, Buck, disappeared while chasing a coyote. (CBSLA)

After a nerve-wracking three days apart, Buck was guided back home — sticking close to Skeens’s side the entire time.

“He didn’t want me to go anywhere,” Skeens said.

Skeens said he was grateful to all of the first responders who saved two of the most important things in his life — his home and Buck — though he hopes his curious little dog has learned his lesson.

“You’re not gonna be chasing anymore coyotes, that’s for sure,” Skeens said.

Skeens’s home was not damaged in the fire, but the well on his property was burned, so firefighters Wednesday took a hose up the hill of his property to fill it up for him until he can get it fixed.

As of Wednesday evening, the Apple Fire had burned 27,569 acres and was 30% contained. Fire crews said the blaze to be fully contained by Aug. 17.

An evacuation order remained in place for the community of Oak Glen in San Bernardino County, and evacuation warnings were still in place for Forest Falls, Pioneertown and Rimrock in San Bernardino County and for the area east of Potrero Road, north of Morongo Road and west of Whitewater Canyon Road in Riverside County.

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Oak Glen Road at Wildwood Canyon, Oak Glen Road at El Dorado Park and Valley of Falls Drive at Highway 38 all remained closed in San Bernardino County due to the blaze.