Valley Fire Chars Thousands of Acres, Destroys Homes In Eastern San Diego County
Firefighters battled for a fourth day Tuesday to subdue a Santa Ana-driven wildfire that blackened thousands of acres in rural eastern San Diego County over the Labor Day weekend, leveling about a dozen homes and forcing widespread evacuations.
The blaze erupted for unknown reasons early Saturday afternoon off Spirit Trail in Japatul Valley, near Alpine, according to Cal Fire. As of late this morning, the flames had spread over an estimated 17,345 acres and destroyed at least 11 residences and 25 outbuildings, the state agency reported.
Strong dry winds out of the east made efforts to control the blaze, dubbed the Valley Fire, extremely urgent and challenging.
"It's supposed to really kick off this afternoon," Cal Fire Capt. Thomas Shoots said of the dangerously arid, hot and gusty conditions prevailing in the county.
The fire has resulted in two injuries, authorities said. It was not immediately clear if the victims were firefighters or civilians.
By Tuesday afternoon, the fire was only 3% contained.
Evacuation orders were in effect for Barrett Lake Dam, the Corte Madera area and South Pine Valley.
Evacuation warnings were in effect for Barrett Junction, Campo, Deerhorn Valley, Dog Patch, Dulzura, Honey Springs, the area from Japatul Road to Interstate 8, Lake Morena and Potrero.
Shelters for the displaced were available at Joan MacQueen Middle School in Alpine and at Steele Canyon High School in Spring Valley.
Early this afternoon, San Diego Gas & Electric advised East County residents that public-safety power outages might become necessary due to the potential for weather-related utility combustion hazards.
The San Diego County Pollution Control District advised that air- quality levels were unhealthy in parts of the region due to the conflagration. The agency advised people to limit outdoor activities until the smoky conditions dissipate.
The U.S. Forest Service closed Cleveland National Forest indefinitely to keep the public out of harm's way. Eight national forests were closed across California due to ongoing fire danger, including Angeles National Forest, San Bernardino National Forest, Los Padres National Forest, Inyo National Forest, Sequoia National Forest, Sierra National Forest and Stanislaus National Forest.
Among the imminently threatened communities in San Diego County were the back-country towns of Carveacre, Lawson Valley, Wood Valley, Lyons Valley and Deer Horn Valley, as well as Sycuan Indian Reservation.
As of Tuesday morning, SDG&E reported power outages affecting 2,258 customers in the fire area, including parts of Dulzura, Potrero, Campo, Jamul, North Jamul, Lyons Valley, Barrett Lake, Dehesa, Alpine, Rancho Palo Verde, Buckman Springs and Morena Village.
As the inferno spread, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for San Diego County, a move intended to free up federal relief funds.
To aid residents in need of a safe place to board their pets or livestock until the wildfire is extinguished, San Diego County Animal Services offered care and refuge for animals at shelters in Bonita and Spring Valley. Those in need of the services were asked to call 619-236-2341.