Originally published September 24, 2012 at 7:55 a.m., updated September 25, 2012 at 12:26 p.m.
A retirement-age man was found dead today in the charred ruins of one of at least 20 homes gutted by a wildfire that has blackened some 2,851 acres in the southeastern reaches of San Diego County, authorities reported.
Crews made accelerating progress today in defeating a wildfire that claimed one life and leveled at least 20 back-country homes in rural southeastern San Diego County over the last three days.
As of late this morning, the 2,850-acre Campo-area blaze, dubbed the Shockey Fire, was about 55 percent contained, authorities reported.
The conflagration erupted for unknown reasons off Shockey Truck Trail and State Route 94 about noon Sunday, according to Cal Fire. Within several hours, officials were urging residents of about 80 homes potentially in the path of the flames to evacuate.
About 2:30 p.m. Monday, emergency crews found the body of a retirement-age man in the charred ruins of his Tierra del Sol Road house, sheriff's officials said.
Neighbors told authorities the disabled victim, whose name was withheld pending family notification, had decided to ignore the call to clear out of the neighborhood, opting to take his chances staying put.
Under state law, evacuation orders -- even when deemed "mandatory,'' as they were in this case -- cannot be forced on those who refuse to comply.
About a dozen evacuees spent Sunday night at a Red Cross shelter set up at Mountain Empire High School, and about half that number stayed the following night.
Stuart Mills said when the fire approached his family’s home, his father was in the house. And he got out just in time.
“So he shut off the propane and watered down the house, and got a few personal items and got out of here," Mills said. "Within 20 minutes this whole area was up in flames.”
Others were luckier. Donna Tisdale lives two miles west of Tierra Del Sol. But she said her home, and that of her son, were luckily spared even though the fire flew through the area at what she called amazing speed. She responded emotionally as she viewed the burned-down homes.
“It’s heartbreaking. I didn’t cry yesterday. I cried this morning, and I’m gonna cry again now. It’s devastating. It’s devastating,” she said.
As of 7:30 p.m. Monday, residents of two of the three evacuated communities -- Boulevard and Jewel Valley -- had been allowed to return to their homes. Those who live in the Tierra del Sol area were expected to be able to do so early this evening.
A stretch of SR-94 remained closed from Shockey Truck Trail to the U.S.-Mexico border as ground and helicopter crews continued to fully contain the northern and southern flanks of the smoldering burn area, Cal Fire reported.
All Mountain Empire School District classes, which were canceled Monday, resumed today.
A total of 955 personnel were working the lines this morning, according to Cal Fire. Aiding the state agency in the effort were the county Sheriff's Department, Campo Indian Reservation Fire Department, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Border Patrol.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized funding to help fight the Shockey Fire. The decision makes FEMA funding available to reimburse 75 percent of eligible firefighting costs.