Santee Brush Fire Flare-Up Fully Contained
A stubborn brush fire that burned about 5 acres Tuesday afternoon in the dry bed of the San Diego River in Santee reignited Wednesday morning, but firefighters managed to get it fully contained by about 11:30 a.m., officials said.
Sheriff's deputies ordered residents at 10 homes on Willowgrove Avenue near Carlton Hills Boulevard to evacuate but most ignored the requests, authorities said. The evacuation order was lifted after fire crews contained the 1-acre flare-up just outside the border of the original blaze, said sheriff's Lt. Dave Schaller.
The 911 calls Wednesday from residents began around 7:45 a.m., Schaller said.
Kim Hill, who lives on Willowgrove, said she was asked to leave her home but stayed because her husband didn't believe their house was in danger.
Firefighters were stationed in the neighborhood throughout the night to monitor and mop up any flare-ups. Hill said when the blaze reignited the fire crews appeared to be allowing the thick brush to burn and then responded.
Helicopter water drops were used initially to battle Wednesday's blaze, but high winds forced officials to ground all firefighting aircraft, a Heartland Fire and Rescue dispatcher said.
Alex Tardy, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told KPBS that this is the highest wind event in the past three years in Southern California, and the winds aren't expected to ease until Friday. Temperatures also will start cooling then, Tardy said.
Hot, dry winds battered the county, with gusts reaching 101 mph in the mountains and into the 70-mph range in the inland valleys, with Alpine recording a high of 72 mph. At the coast, the winds were mostly in the 30-mph range, though a gust of 43 mph was recorded in Miramar, according to the weather service.
In Alpine, I-8 eastbound at East Willows was closed to all high-profile vehicles due to the windy weather, the fire department said.
Although the strong winds hampered firefighting efforts, they did not ground flights at San Diego's Lindbergh Field, airport authorities said.
The high winds blew smoke and ash from the Santee fire for miles as crews cut and watered down trees in an attempt to eliminate future fire threats.
The blaze was battled with firefighters from Santee, Lakeside, San Diego, Chula Vista and Cal Fire. Cal Fire's Kendal Bortisser said the state agency responded with four engines, two chief officers and five hand crews.
"We're all pitching in and taking care of each other," said Chula Vista Deputy Fire Chief Jim Garcia.
Temperatures in Santee are predicted to reach 95 degrees Wednesday, while a northeast wind will blow at 20 to 25 mph, according to the National Weather Service. Some wind gusts could reach as high as 40 mph. Temperatures are predicted to fall Wednesday night to a low of 62, but wind gusts will continue.
The original fire in Santeebroke out around 3 p.m. Tuesday in the dry bed of the San Diego River off Carlton Oaks Drive near Calle del Verde, a Heartland fire dispatcher said. No one was injured and no homes were lost, though a fence at a condominium complex burned down.
The National Weather Service issued a strong wind warning for the San Diego region at 4 a.m. Wednesday. According to the warning:
"PEAK WINDS OF 60 TO 90 MPH ARE LIKELY IN A FEW OF THE WIND PRONE MOUNTAIN AND FOOTHILL AREAS. A BRIEF LULL IN THE WINDS IS FORECAST THIS EVENING BEFORE A FINAL SURGE OF STRONG WINDS ARRIVES TONIGHT AND CONTINUES THROUGH THURSDAY. THESE WINDS WILL BE SLIGHTLY WEAKER."