Huge California fire burns 1,584 acres, now 50-percent contained


The Bernardo, Calif., fire has charred at least 1,584 acres of brushy open land west of Black Mountain. It was 50 percent contained as of about 4 p.m. Wednesday, meeting the goal to reach that level of containment by day's end.

At a news conference Wednesday morning with Mayor Kevin Faulconer, fire officials reiterated that despite the progress being made, they were not out of the woods quite yet.

"While the greatest danger has passed, there is still danger today," San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Javier Mainar said.

Crews saw 12 flare-ups overnight Tuesday. Rancho Santa Fe Fire Chief Tony Michel said that firefighters were seeing lots of hot spots. About 350 firefighting personnel were on the fire lines.

Cal Fire Incident Commander Kevin Lawson said there were two minor injuries, one was heat-related and the other was from smoke exposure. No structures have been damaged. The strategy Wednesday was to keep the fire from spreading while conducting aggressive perimeter control.

Although winds died down overnight, the National Weather Service said more strong Santa Ana winds -- possibly up to 75 miles per hour in the most wind-prone areas -- were in store for today. The agency issued a red flag warning for strong winds, dry conditions and warm temperatures for the inland valleys and mountain areas until 8 p.m. Wednesday.

"The weather is a very big concern for us," Lawson said.

Lawson added that plans were in place to divert resources if another wildfire was to break out Wednesday. While all evacuation orders were lifted, officials encouraged residents to be informed and alert today. 

"We need every San Diegian to be prepared, to be ready," Faulconer said.

Officials said that approximately 22,000 alerts were sent out to residents through the AlertSanDiego regional notification system. 17,000 of those went out within the city of San Diego, and 5,000 in the county.

Meteorologist Robert Santos reports that the winds will continue to pick up throughout the morning and and mid afternoon for the coast and western valleys, with gusts up to 50 mph. The eastern valleys and mountains will experience gusts up to 65 mph, with isolated areas hitting 80 mph. The winds should die down by Wednesday night.

"We're predicting that we're going to be having the same kind of weather we had yesterday, we're going to be having the triple digit temperatures today," Cal Fire spokesman Capt. Kendal Bortisser told 10News Wednesday morning. "The wind is supposed to come back again this morning, in addition to that low humidity."

The Bernardo Fire erupted around 11 a.m. Tuesday off Nighthawk Lane, southwest of Rancho Bernardo near Del Norte High School.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department said fire was contained to east of Via De La Valle, west of Dove Canyon Road, north of Carmel Valley Road and south of Camino Del Sur.
No serious injuries or structural damage were reported as of early Tuesday evening. Bortisser said a team of investigators are working to determine the exact cause and origin of the fire.

Authorities were expected to give an update on their progress at 8:30 a.m. at the command post at the West Bernardo Recreation Center at 18448 W. Bernardo Dr.

A Sig Alert is in effect in the area surrounding the command post due to the number fire personnel and engines in the area. Bernardo Drive is closed between Andanza Way and Aguamiel Road. The closure is expected to be in effect through at least 9 a.m.

In the early hours of the fire, the sheriff's department evacuated more than 5,000 homes and businesses in communities between the Rancho Penasquitos and Rancho Santa Fe areas, sending people to Torrey Pines High School and later, Rancho Bernardo High School to wait out the emergency. Evacuation orders were lifted for the Fairbanks Ranch and eastern Rancho Santa Fe areas around 8 p.m. Tuesday. However, several evacuees chose to stay overnight at the Red Cross shelter.

"It's pretty scary for people, thinking about, 'what am I going to take with me, do I need clothes for a couple days, what about my family heirlooms?’ evacuee Celeste Vinzant said. “How do you prepare for this kind of thing when it happens suddenly and quickly?"

Also evacuated on Tuesday were several area schools in the Poway Unified School District. On its website, the district said all of its schools would be open today, though it was understood many pupils may be absent if their families remained displaced. However, the Mountain Empire Unified School District was closing all schools Wednesday due to high winds and the potential for power outages.


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