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San Diego Survives Record Winds And Heat As Fire Season Arrives

A firefighter on the scene of a brush fire in Santee that broke out in the afternoon of April 29, 2014.

Aired 5/2/14 on KPBS News.

San Diego's dry, hot and windy weather this past week made for ripe fire conditions, but among the half of a dozen brush fires that broke out none burned more than a few acres.

The conditions were ripe for wildfire disaster: The worst drought we've seen in history. The strongest Santa Ana wind gusts Southern California's seen in years. And record-breaking temperatures were reached.

Near Los Angeles, a wildfire that started Wednesday scorched more than 2,000 acres near the foothills of the San Bernardino National Forest. As of Friday, it was only 53 percent contained. But in San Diego, when six different brush fires erupted from National City to Rancho Peñasquitos over a three-day stretch, fire crews quickly knocked them down and limited their spread to only a few acres. Although, a shed was partially damaged and some pigs were killed in a Spring Valley fire.

Special Feature San Diego Fire News

Follow our latest coverage of wildfires in San Diego.

Fire Timeline

Tues., April 29

Fire in Santee started around 3:30 p.m.

Wed., April 30

Santee flare-up started at 7:45 a.m.

Fire in National City started at 12:40 p.m.

Thur., May 1

Fire in Lakeside started around 7 a.m.

Fire in Rancho Peñasquitos started around 12:48 p.m.

Fire in Spring Valley started around 3 p.m.

Cal Fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser said firefighters were able to keep the blazes small and extinguish them quickly because crews were on high alert and acted swiftly.

"The firefighters throughout have just done an outstanding job of jumping on the fires quickly and going to work," the fire captain said.

Bortisser pointed to Thursday morning's fire in Lakeside as an example. Lakeside fire crews were the first to respond.

"They had taken some extra effort as a result of the weather pattern and the conditions we were dealing with to ramp up and be more proactive in the event something should happen, and it paid off real well," he said. "They had a water tender fully covered, doubling staffing on some of their apparatus, so having those additional personnel, having the equipment staffed up that may normally not be staffed up played a role."

Bortisser said this enabled Lakeside to gain the upper hand quickly and later extinguish the fire altogether with the help of crews from Cal Fire and other agencies.

Now temperatures have cooled and winds have died down, but we're not out of the woods yet, Bortisser said. He'll join fire officials to kick off "Wildfire Awareness Week" on Tuesday.

"The week is a campaign to alert folks that we are in fire season, and we're seeing conditions in May that we aren't used to seeing this time of year," he said.

As of late April, Cal Fire has responded to 1,108 fires since Jan. 1. That's 411 more fires than the same period last year.

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