1,600-Acre Bernardo Fire 25 Percent Contained
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
UPDATE: Officials say the fire burned more than 1,600 acres and is 25 percent contained as of Wednesday morning.
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No injuries were reported and all buildings were spared as about 800 acres burned and homes, schools and businesses were evacuated during the Bernardo fire that broke out Tuesday in northern San Diego.
As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, all San Diego evacuation orders had been lifted.
As evening set, the fire remained 5 percent contained, San Diego Fire Chief Javier Mainar said.
"We will learn something from this fire... but this went extremely well," Mainar said at an evening press conference, adding no fire since 2007 had "caused this much concern" to the firefighting community.
At its peak, more than 150 firefighters fought the brush fire on the ground with support from city, county and state air resources.
San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said 300 homes in the city of San Diego were evacuated. More than 100 San Diego police officers helped with the evacuation, in addition to San Diego County sheriff's deputies and California Highway Patrol.
About 22,000 Alert San Diego evacuation alerts were sent — 5,000 to San Diego County residents and 17,000 to city of San Diego residents, including homes, businesses and cellphones, according to the county's Twitter feed.
The San Diego County Emergency Update website originally said 20,000 homes were evacuated, but San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore later said that number was wrong. Three elementary schools in the area were also evacuated.
Rancho Sante Fe Fire Chief Tony Michel said crews will remain in the area overnight to help mop up hot spots and control the fire perimeter.
Cal Fire Battalion Chief Kevin Lawson said additional resources will start early Wednesday morning before winds pick up, adding that the flame front had slowed and helicopters capable of doing water drops at night were available if needed.
"Hopefully they get this buttoned up and provide a level of comfort to the residents in the area," Lawson said.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer declared a local state of emergency, "which enables us to seek federal reimbursements and costs and other assistance as we move forward," he said at a news conference Tuesday night.
Faulconer thanked the firefighters and law enforcement who helped stop the fire from damaging any structures.
"I can tell you unequivocally first hand, we are lucky to have the men and women that have thrown all their efforts and energy into this this afternoon," he said.
No injuries were reported during the evacuation process, Zimmerman said. About 100 San Diego police officers joined 70 sheriff's deputies to help people leave their homes and businesses. An additional 60 deputies would work overnight, Gore said.
The fire first broke out near Del Norte High School about 10:45 a.m., Mainar said. He said the cause of the fire is being investigated.
SeaWorld spokesman Dave Koontz said the park took in about 25 cats and dogs from evacuated homes. A team from SeaWorld also helped workers at the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe move larger, "exotic" animals, he said. Larger animals, including horses, were sent to the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
Helen Woodward spokeswoman Jessica Gercke said 90 percent of the center's 400 animals had been evacuated, including 17 horses, three goats, two alpacas and two 80-pound tortoises that were hauled off in wheelbarrows.
Smaller brush fires also broke out Tuesday morning in Campo and Dulzura.
Cal Fire crews extinguished the Campo brush fire that scorched about 4 open acres and engulfed two mobile homes near state Route 94 and Shockey Truck Trail.
There were no reports of injuries in that fire.
In Dulzura, three small fires possibly sparked by wind-severed power lines blackened about one-third of an acre off Route 94, near Clark Ranch.
The non-injury blazes in the Dulzura area began spreading shortly before 9 a.m., according to Cal Fire.
Arriving firefighters encountered several downed power lines, making it difficult at first for them to get close to the flames, Cal Fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser said.
It took fire personnel about an hour to contain the blazes, which eventually merged into a single burn area, Bortisser said.
About 650 homes in the area were without power in the area at the time of the fire, according to San Diego Gas & Electric. By late morning, repair crews had restored service to about half of those customers, the utility reported.
A "red flag" wildfire warning is in effect for valley and mountain areas Tuesday, with gusts in excess of 65 mph likely, according to the National Weather Service.