A brush fire erupted Wednesday night in Rancho San Diego and quickly spread to several homes as dry Santa Ana winds fanned the flames, authorities said.
The fire broke out around 10 p.m. in a belt of undeveloped land between Willow Glen Drive and Wind River Road, according to San Diego sheriff’s Lt. Mark Moreno. The area is southeast of Valhalla High School, and across Willow Glen Drive from Cottonwood Golf Club.
As of about 1:20 a.m. Thursday, fire crews had halted the spread of the blaze at about 25 acres, according to Cal Fire San Diego. The blaze was five percent contained.
Officials said one structure was destroyed. It was not immediately clear how many other homes were damaged.
Sheriff’s deputies began immediately working to evacuate homes on Wind River Road and surrounding streets, Moreno said. More evacuations were ordered as the flames advanced.
Several homes on Wind River Road were immediately threatened by flames, and the fire quickly spread to about five of them, according to emergency radio traffic. More than a dozen others were also initially thought to be in imminent danger.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Aidan Farida posted several videos of the blaze on Twitter. In a brief phone interview, he said he lives in the area and looked out a window Wednesday night to see “this huge fire.” He described heavy smoke and ash in the air, and said a home at the top of a nearby hill was “fully on fire.”
Other homes near that one also appeared to be on fire, Farida said.
Authorities issued evacuation orders for Aspen Lane, Merlyn Place, Augusta Court, Sea Pines Road, Sawgrass Street, Bridge Hampton Place, Hilton Head Road and parts of Barbham Street, as well as areas near the intersection of Willow Glen Drive and Steele Canyon Road.
Sheriff’s officials asked evacuees to go to a temporary evacuation point at the McGrath Family YMCA at 12006 Campo Road, just south of Jamacha Road. Authorities originally asked evacuees to go to Regal Edwards Rancho San Diego cinemas on Jamacha and Campo roads.
According to Cal Fire, the blaze grew quickly, reaching about 10 to 15 acres within about 45 minutes. Early reports from the scene suggested the blaze initially grew at a moderate rate.
The California Highway Patrol shut down Willow Glen Drive between Jamacha Road and Hillsdale Road. Several other streets in the residential area threatened by the flames were also closed.
Fire crews on the ground and water-dropping helicopters battled the flames.
Crews from Cal Fire San Diego, San Miguel Fire Protection District and Heartland Fire & Rescue were involved, as was at least one helicopter from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
Kathleen Hedberg watched from the vantage point of her Mount Helix home as several low-flying helicopters fought the fire late Wednesday and overnight into Thursday.
“Thank goodness we have those helicopters and water drops,” Hedberg said just after midnight Thursday. “Those were so essential and key.”
Hedberg, an elected member of the Helix Water District’s board of directors, is also president of the new Rancho Helix de Oro Fire Safe Council. Though Wednesday’s fire was not in Hedberg’s district, she said the timing was ironic, as her nearby district had just last week mailed out fire emergency plans complete with evacuation routes to residents in her area.
“People need to be prepared,” Hedberg said. “Set up alerts on your phone — especially for something like this that happens (late at night).”
Even before the fire erupted late Wednesday, San Diego Gas & Electric had shut down power to tens of thousands of customers across the county because of the risk of wildfires due to strong, dry Santa Ana winds that prompted a red-flag fire weather warning.
According to SDG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff page, the area where Wednesday night’s fire broke out was near the edge of an area that had been under threat of a shutoff, but the utility had not preemptively shut down electricity in that region when the blaze erupted.
By 2 a.m. Thursday, SDG&E had preemptively cut power to more than 61,600 customers as fierce Santa Ana winds battered the county, including 90 mph gusts recorded in the Cuyamaca Mountains
“The winds are going to last until Thursday afternoon; they’re not going to change much until then,” Miguel Miller, a forecaster at the National Weather Service, told the Union-Tribune early Thursday.
The red-flag fire weather warning will remain in effect until 6 p.m. on Saturday for the eastern half of the county.
Staff writers Karen Pearlman and Gary Robbins contributed to this report.
Published at Thu, 03 Dec 2020 06:57:33 +0000