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All Evacuation Orders Lifted In East County Fire

This undated photo shows a plane dropping fire retardant over the Border fire.
K.E. Pack Photography / Cal Fire San Diego
This undated photo shows a plane dropping fire retardant over the Border fire.

Firefighters on Friday continued battling a wildfire near the San Diego-Mexico border that has destroyed five homes and 11 outbuildings, caused power outages, injured three firefighters and prompted widespread evacuations. The fire erupted late Sunday morning amid a heat wave.


Brush fire breaks out north of the Tecate Junction before noon Sunday


7,609 acres burned, 60 percent contained

Five homes and 11 outbuildings destroyed

3 firefighters injured

All evacuation orders lifted


UPDATE: 6:00 p.m., June 24, 2016

The Border fire has burned 7,609 acres and is 60 percent contained, Cal Fire said Friday evening.

UPDATE: 7:09 a.m., June 24, 2016

The Border fire had burned 7,483 acres and is 45 percent contained, Cal Fire reported Friday morning.

The evacuation center at Los Coches Creek Middle School will be closed Friday at 7 p.m. All evacuation orders for the Border fire were lifted as of 6 p.m. Thursday.

The shelter provided 177 overnight stays during the Border Fire, Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties said.

UPDATE: 6:15 p.m., June 23, 2016

All evacuation orders for the Border fire had been lifted as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Cal Fire said.

That includes Potrero, Lake Morena and the surrounding areas. The agency asked that motorists drive slowly as emergency workers remain.

Residents missing pets are advised to visit San Diego County Animal Services' website. Information about recovery assistance is available on the San Diego County Recovery website.

The fire had burned 7,358 acres and was 35 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.

UPDATE: 10:51 a.m., June 23, 2016

A community meeting will be held in El Cajon Thursday to give an update on the Border fire.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Los Coches Creek Middle School, 9669 Dunbar Lane.

Representatives from the agencies managing and supporting the incident will provide updates to those in attendance.

The latest update from Cal Fire, decreased the number of outbuildings destroyed to 11, while five homes have been destroyed.

UPDATE: 7:21 a.m., June 23, 2016

A total of 6,840 acres have burned in the Border fire, Cal Fire reported Thursday morning.

The containment of the fire remained at 20 percent.

Five homes, three of which "were secondary homes located on the same parcel as the primary homes," have been destroyed, Cal Fire said. Twelve outbuildings have also been destroyed in the fire. A total of 200 structures were threatened as of Thursday morning.

UPDATE: 7 p.m., June 22, 2016

As some residents in the Potrero area got to return home on Wednesday as the Border fire continued to burn to the north, Cal Fire announced that five homes have been destroyed and one damaged in the blaze that started on Sunday. Twelve outbuildings have been destroyed.

Cal Fire said 6,723 acres have been scorched — up slightly from the 6,500 acres reported earlier in the day — and the fire is 20 percent contained. About 1,900 firefighters are battling the stubborn wildfire.

"Fire is currently burning around the SDG&E power link," according to Cal Fire. "The fire still remains a threat to the communities of Lake Morena Village, Campo" and other outlying areas.

About 1,900 firefighters are battling the stubborn wildfire.

"This is still a dynamic and active fire; residents in the surrounding area of the fire should continue to be prepared to evacuate if need be," Cal Fire said in its 7 p.m. update on the status of the blaze.

UPDATE: 4:40 p.m., June 22, 2016

The evacuation order for residents in western Potrero was lifted at 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to Cal Fire.

The agency said the general public can enter the area starting 6 p.m.

UPDATE: 4:15 p.m., June 22, 2016

San Diego Gas & Electric said power by Wednesday morning had been restored to most homes that experienced outages due to the Border fire. The company expects to be able to restore electricity to all affected areas by midday Thursday.

According to the Sheriff's Department, the following road closures remain in effect:

• Route 94 from Tecate Road to Forrest Gate Road in Campo

• southbound traffic on Buckman Springs Road from Old Buckman Springs Road to Route 94

• Lake Morena Drive at Buckman Springs Road

• Oak Drive at Buckman Springs Road

• Emery Road at Route 94

UPDATE: 7:55 a.m., June 22, 2016

Two homes and 11 outbuildings have been destroyed in the Border fire, while one home suffered damage, Cal Fire reported Wednesday morning.

A total of 1,000 structures are threatened in the fire, Cal Fire said.

UPDATE: 6:33 a.m., June 22, 2016

The Border fire has burned 6,500 acres and is 15 percent contained, Cal Fire said Wednesday morning. The agency also reported that 1,604 firefighters are battling the blaze.

UPDATE: 7:30 p.m., June 21, 2016

"Better mapping" shows the Border fire had scorched 6,020 acres by Tuesday evening, according to Cal Fire. The agency said the fire was 10 percent contained.

Authorities previously said the fire had burned 7,500 acres.

Day 3 update on Border fire

UPDATE: 6:45 p.m., June 21, 2016

The Border fire in southeastern San Diego County continued to rage on Tuesday despite better weather conditions, Cal Fire officials said.

Up at the fire command station in Potrero Regional Park, Cal Fire spokesman John Buchanan said the cooler weather and higher humidity was helpful, but challenges remain for firefighters battling the stubborn blaze.

"It's still hot out there. ... Sometimes a quarter mile away," Buchanan said. Temperatures in Potrero hovered around 90 degrees even as the sun began to set Tuesday.

A woman at Los Coches Creek Middle School, an evacuation center set up by the Red Cross, said she left her Campo home even though there was only an evacuation advisory.

"On the first day we were getting chunks of ash. Really big chunks of ash," said Laura, who only wanted her first name used. She had images on her cellphone of fire creeping closer to her home.

She said she chose to leave when she saw others packing up. She grabbed what was most important and headed to the evacuation site. "Baby pictures for my kids, birth certificates, and my dogs," she said.

By early Tuesday evening, Cal Fire had not given an update on the size of the fire or the containment. Earlier in the day, authorities said it had burned 7,500 acres and was 5 percent contained.

UPDATE: 6 p.m., June 21, 2016

The Mountain Empire Unified School District announced Tuesday that its schools will be closed Wednesday, which was scheduled to be the last day of the school year.

UPDATE: 1:50 p.m., June 21, 2016

Cal Fire has ordered Lake Morena residents to evacuate, the agency said Tuesday afternoon.

According to Cal Fire's latest update, the Border fire continues to move north — putting at risk parts of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, which has been closed, and the surrounding areas in southeastern San Diego County. The fire currently threatens 800 structures, authorities said.

The agency had issued an "advisory evacuation" for the Lake Morena area Monday afternoon.

UPDATE: 1 p.m., June 21, 2016

As containment of the Sherpa fire in Santa Barbara County increases, more firefighters will be sent to the other five wildfires in the state, including the Border fire in San Diego's East County, an official said.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Mike Mohler said the Sherpa fire has the most firefighters assigned to it — 2,100. It has burned 7,969 acres and is 70 percent contained.

The Border fire has the second most with 1,484 firefighters assigned from across the state.

The East County fire had burned 7,500 acres and was 5 percent contained as of the last update Tuesday afternoon. Cal Fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser said the lack of containment is a concern for firefighters.

Fire chiefs in the state determine how to spread resources based on threat to life, homes, infrastructure and agriculture, Mohler said. He said protecting homes in the Potrero area, where the Border fire is burning, has been a factor in the number of resources sent to the fire.

In addition to firefighters, there are 158 engines, 12 water tenders, 6 helicopters and 4 air tankers assigned to the Border fire.

UPDATE: 7:20 a.m., June 21, 2016

Tuesday's weather is expected to help firefighters in containing the Border fire in San Diego's East County, Cal Fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser said.

After enduring triple digit temperatures the past couple of days, it will be in the 90s Tuesday with humidity in the teens, Bortisser said.

Cal Fire's last estimate on the acreage burned was at 6:45 p.m. Monday. At that point, 7,500 acres had been scorched and containment was at 5 percent. The lack of containment is a concern for firefighters, Bortisser said.

“We have several hundred firefighters on the front lines around the clock from throughout the state of California that are battling this fire, battling the elements and the conditions, to try to get the upper hand on this thing,” he said.

Bortisser said high temperatures, winds and low humidity helped fuel the fire on Monday. Firefighters also dealt with steep terrain and a lot of dry brush in the drought-stricken rural area, he said.

"A combination of a lot of different things that the firefighters have had to encounter out there, which lead to the increased fire behavior," he said.

More Evacuations As Wildfire Near San Diego-Mexico Border Grows

UPDATE: 6:45 p.m., June 20, 2016

The Border fire that started Sunday morning had grown to 7,500 acres by Monday night, according to Cal Fire.

Earlier in the day, Cal Fire had tweeted that "extreme fire behavior and activity" were characterizing the brush fire, which took off Monday in the heat and winds that firefighters had to battle all day, along with flames and rough terrain.

UPDATE: 4:30 p.m., June 20, 2016

The shelter at Campo Elementary School is now closed, the American Red Cross of San Diego and Imperial counties said Monday. A new shelter site has been set up in El Cajon at Los Coches Creek Middle School at 9669 Dunbar Lane.

In an interview with KPBS News, Cal Fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser hinted that the fire may have already burned more than 1,900 acres.

"Once the sun came up and the fire got established in certain areas of the area out there, (the fire) got some good wind," Bortisser said. "It found some terrain and found some good fuels and the fire just really, it really took off on us. The fire intensity increased. They had a rapid rate of spread and extreme fire behavior."

Bortisser said he doesn't know exactly how much if may have grown because the agency is focused on containing the blaze and evacuating residents who may be at risk.

Schools in the Mountain Empire Unified School District will be closed for the second day Tuesday, according to the San Diego County Office of Education.

The County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation said that Potrero and Lake Morena parks are closed due to the fire.

UPDATE: 2:20 p.m., June 20, 2016

The Sheriff’s Department has issued an "evacuation advisory" near Campo and Buckman Springs. An evacuation point has been set up at the Golden Acorn Casino, 1800 Golden Acorn Way.

The San Diego Humane Society is en route to provide food and water to 250,000 chickens at a ranch that has lost power, a spokesperson told KPBS. The nonprofit is also providing care to four horses, two llamas and five goats.

UPDATE: 1:45 p.m., June 20, 2016

Cal Fire has issued an "advisory evacuation" for Lake Morena.

According to SDG&E, 950 of its customers have lost power. The company has sent crews to assess damage to utility poles and power lines in the fire area.

UPDATE: 1:10 p.m., June 20, 2016

Evacuation notifications were sent to residents along Route 94, four miles north between Harris Road and Buckman Springs Road, according to San Diego County's Sheriff Department.

The department said a temporary evacuation point has been set up at the Buckman Springs rest stop at Buckman Springs Road and Interstate 8 east of Pine Valley.

Route 94 is shut down from Highway 188/Tecate Road to Forrest Gate Road.

UPDATE: 12:30 p.m., June 20, 2016

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for the communities of Forest Gate, Star Ranch, Cowboy Ranch, Dog Patch and Canyon City, Cal Fire said Monday afternoon. The evacuation shelter is at Campo Elementary School at 1654 Buckman Springs Road.

Growing Wildfire Near San Diego-Mexico Border Prompts More Evacuations
Fast-Moving Brush Fire Forces Evacuations Near Tecate Border Crossing GUEST:Kendal Bortissier, captain, Cal Fire

Excessive heat, low humidity and risk winds are pushing a brush fire near the border at Potrero. A local tax on the sale of marijuana. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Monday, June 20 . Our top story, schools are closed, many residents are in shelters as firefighters battle a fast growing brush fire near Potrero at the US-Mexico border. The excessive heat and low humidity expected through the day may -- make controlling it difficult. I spoke with Cal Fire Captain Kendal Bortisser. What are the conditions firefighters face in the Border fire? Today there facing triple digit numbers, it was about 105 degrees out there, where they are at. Single-digit humidity and the winds are about 7 to 10 miles per hour they could go as high as 15 miles. -- Per hour. Adding that in with the terrain and the dry fuels, they have a real challenge. Have any firefighters been injured? Taken down by this excessive heat? Yes. We have had three firefighters injured and they were all heat related. I am happy to report, those folks were transported to hospital and are released. How many crews and firefighters do have a the ground? Several hundred firefighters are battling this place, from the air and ground. We have tinkers, helicopters and multiple ground crews. The residents of Potrero have been asked to evacuate. Have most of them complied? Yes. We did receive word that the majority did comply. There were a few that stayed behind, to defend their homes. That is a concern, when we issue an evacuation order, we are saying that it is not safe for you to stay in your home. When someone decides to stay home, it's not only risking their own life, but you put the firefighters in jeopardy as well. In the event that they are put in a position, where there are in harms way. We have to pull firefighters from the frontline to rescue them. How far away is the firefighter from the bulk of the town? The fire burned right up to and through Potrero, yesterday evening. Have many homes been burned? We have reports of four outbuildings, that have been destroyed. We have heard that other homes were damaged, we cannot confirm that. We need to get the damage assessment teams in the area, to determine exactly if there were homes destroyed and how many. Any residents injured? Nope. -- No. What you say, a substantial number of residents have complied with the evacuation order? There is an evacuation center been set up by the Red Cross at the Campo Elementary School. The last report, there were 60-70 people had gone to the shelter. Schools are closed today. That's correct. You know the cause of the fire? Not yet. We have investigators working to determine the cause. When did a breakout? Yesterday morning, around 11 AM. The fire was called in at 2 acres or 3 acres and then it got into steep terrain and heavy fuse -- fuels, we went from 100 acres to several hundred acres and a matter of a few hours. I read the fire was 5% contained, this morning. Is that still the case? Yes. That is correct. The latest as 5%. That is of significant concern, we have 95% of open line. There's a lot of work to be done, that's what's going to keep these crews on the frontlines for the next week or so. That's my next question, the prediction of full containment is at the end of this week? We don't have a prediction on full contain, we will get other factors, if the wind and the heat continue, that could have the potential to spread. Crews will remain on the scene for several more days, I can assure you. Which direction is this fire moving in? At last report it was moving Southeast. Are any other towns our communities threatened by the blaze? Not as of yet,. -- No. What are firefighters most concerned about? Certainly, the environmental conditions, we don't want any of our folks in the hospital. With this weather, it doesn't matter what kind of shape you are in, how much water you drink, the weather can take its toll on you. We have been emphasizing stay hydrated, relax when you have down time, as needed. They will be out there around the clock. I've been shaking with Cal Fire, Kendal Bortisser thank you.

UPDATE: 10:20 a.m., June 20, 2016

A Red Cross evacuation center at Campo Elementary School provided shelter Sunday night to 44 people who were forced to flee the Border fire. The shelter is also hosting several small pets.

The San Diego Humane Society is helping people in the fire's path to relocate their horses and other large animals to the Circle T Ranch at 24215 Viejas Grade Road in Descanso.

UPDATE: 8:50 a.m., June 20, 2016

The temperature in Potrero at 8:50 a.m. was 99 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures by early afternoon are expected to rise to 106 degrees, along with single-digit humidity and winds gusting as high as 30 mph.

UPDATE: 8:30 a.m., June 20, 2016

The Border fire grew to 1,900 acres overnight, according to Cal Fire. Firefighters on Monday morning had 5 percent of the fire contained. Three firefighters have suffered heat-related injuries, a Cal Fire spokesperson said.

Evacuation orders remain in place for the community of Potrero. Cal Fire said the evacuations impact approximately 75 residents.

The San Diego Red Cross has opened a shelter for displaced residents at Campo Elementary School, 1654 Buckman Springs Rd.

The blaze ignited late Sunday morning in the vicinity of state Routes 94 and 188 amid an excessive heat warning.

State Route 94 is closed in the area, authorities said.

UPDATE: 6:50 a.m., June 20, 2016

A wildfire that has blackened about 1,500 acres near the border and prompted authorities to evacuate the entire community of Potrero was 5 percent contained Monday morning.

The blaze broke out on Sunday morning in the vicinity of state Routes 94 and 188. Authorities have shut down state Route 94 in the area and set up a shelter at Campo Elementary School. The blaze has also caused a power outage in Potrero, Campo and Dulzura, and has prompted officials in the Mountain Empire school district to cancel classes.

One of the about 250 firefighters battling the blaze suffered an unspecified injury.

UPDATE: 11:20 p.m., June 19, 2016

One firefighter battling the Border fire has been injured, Cal Fire said Sunday night.

The brush fire, which has burned 1,500 acres near Tecate, was 5 percent contained as of 11 p.m. It has destroyed four outbuildings.

No additional information about the firefighter's injury was available. The next update from Cal Fire is expected Monday morning.

UPDATE: 10:00 p.m., June 19, 2016

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services on Sunday night secured a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to guarantee that necessary resources will be available to suppress the Border fire that has so far burned 1,500 acres near Tecate.

The fire management assistance grant from FEMA can cover personnel, equipment, supplies, meals and other resources.

UPDATE: 9:00 p.m., June 19, 2016

Schools in the Mountain Empire Unified School District will be closed Monday due to the Border fire, the district announced on its website Sunday night.

UPDATE: 7:30 p.m., June 19, 2016

The brush fire near Tecate has burned 1,500 acres, Cal Fire said. According to the agency's website, evacuation shelters have been set up at Campo Community Center, Campo Elementary School and Dulzura Community Center. Route 94 has been closed.

UPDATE: 6 p.m., June 19, 2016

A brush fire burning near the community of Potrero in San Diego's East County has consumed 900 acres, according to Cal Fire. Potrero residents and some nearby ranchers have been evacuated to the Campo Community Center, located at 976 Sheridan Road.

UPDATE: 5:20 p.m., June 19, 2016

Approximately 250 firefighters are battling the "rapidly-moving" Border fire, Cal Fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser told KPBS. The temperature at 5:20 p.m. was 107 degrees, with humidity levels in the single digits, and winds gusting approximately 16 mph.

UPDATE: 4:15 p.m., June 19, 2016

A fast-moving brush fire near Tecate has burned 200 acres, according to Cal Fire. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for the community of Potrero. A temporary evacuation shelter has been set up at the Campo Community Center.


A fast-moving brush fire broke out just before noon north of the Tecate Junction, June 19, 2016.
Cal Fire
A fast-moving brush fire broke out just before noon north of the Tecate Junction, June 19, 2016.

CHP officers and sheriff's deputies rushed to evacuate ranchers near a brush fire that broke out just before noon north of the Tecate Junction on Sunday. Cal Fire reported 25 homes were being evacuated along Highway 94 between Emory Road and Plaskon Road.

Within three hours, the fire had burned 50 acres, said Capt. Kendall Bortisser of Cal Fire. He said "well over'' 100 crew members were dispatched to battle the blaze.

CHP dispatchers began getting calls just after 11 a.m. about heavy smoke and fire north of Route 94 near the Highway 188 cutoff to the Tecate border crossing, about 45 miles east of downtown San Diego.

Route 94 was closed from Route 188 to Potrero Valley Road, Bortisser said. Cal Fire officials added that no traffic was allowed on Route 188 between the border and Route 94.

Cal Fire officials said the fire was spreading at a moderate rate, with no immediate structure threat.

Firefighting crews were making progress from the ground and air, Cal Fire added.

Corrected: July 23, 2024 at 7:35 PM PDT
KPBS staffers Matthew Bowler, Kristina Bravo, Tarryn Mento, Brooke Ruth and Katie Schoolov contributed to this story.
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