Update: Lilac Fire holds at 4,100 acres and is 75 percent contai - KUSI News - San Diego, CA

Update: Lilac Fire holds at 4,100 acres and is 75 percent contained, destroying 151 structure

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BONSALL (KUSI) — The Lilac Fire remained steady at 4,100 acres and was 75 percent contained as of Sunday night as crews finish their fourth day of battling the blaze.

Cal Fire San Diego announced that all areas previously under evacuation order for the Lilac Fire were now open Sunday, with some restrictions. There are two areas that remain restricted, but are open to residents with identification:

  • Rancho Monserate Country Club, 4650 Dulin Road, Fallbrook
  • The area between 5200 Olive Hill Road and 5800 Olive Hill Road in Fallbrook

More than 1,600 fire personnel entered the fourth day of battling the flames.

SDG&E announced power had been restored to about half of their customers affected by the fire and said they would assess the remaining outages on Saturday.

The fire scorched about 4,100 acres within 24 hours near Fallbrook and destroyed at least 182 structures, damaged 56 others and is till threatening 1,500 more. Thousands of North County residents fled their homes after the blaze broke out for unknown reasons about 11:25 a.m. Thursday just west of Interstate 15 and north of Lilac Road in Pala Mesa amid gusty, arid weather.

Fire officials estimate that they will reach full containment by next week. "There's still tons and tons of hot spots out there,'' Cal Fire Capt. Jon Heggie told KUSI on Saturday morning.

Cal Fire also reminded residents to remain vigilant on current fire conditions as they returned to their homes. 

Please continue to adhere to road closures and any evacuation orders or warnings. If you see electrical wires on the ground, stay clear and contact SDG&E immediately. Trees and poles with deep charring, particularly if still smoking, should be considered hazardous. Please drive slowly and yield to emergency personnel in the area.

As you re-enter your property and evaluate damage, be aware that hazardous conditions may exist, particularly if a residence or out-building has burned. Hazards may include asbestos, heavy metals, by-products of plastic combustion and various other chemicals.

The efforts have employed more than 1,000 firefighters and other personnel, 100 fire engines and 15 helicopters, including some military aircraft, Cal Fire spokesman Kendal Bortisser said.

"The region is being tested in a big way,'' County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said. "The good thing is, we have more resources than ever before ... we're better prepared and have better cooperation than there's ever been in San Diego County.''

Some 20,000 people are without power as a result of the fire, according to authorities.

The blaze erupted for unknown reasons at about 11:25 a.m. Thursday, just west of Interstate 15 and north of Lilac Road in Pala Mesa amid gusty, arid weather. Driven by 35 mph Santa Ana winds, the blaze had scorched 4,100 acres as of Thursday night, a figure that authorities said remained steady Friday morning.

By 2 p.m., the flames had spread over roughly 500 acres, were threatening an estimated 1,000 homes and had sent a thick pall of brown smoke to the southwest above the North County and out over the ocean, according to Cal Fire.

"This fire could make all the way through Oceanside to the coast if it continues,'' he said.

At least 23,000 residents from about 5,000 homes were under evacuation orders as of Thursday night, according to San Diego County officials. That number grew overnight and in the early morning hours Friday.

At least six injuries have been reported, including a firefighter who dislocated a shoulder "popped it back in'' and was already back on the job, Schuler said. Another firefighter was taken to a hospital for smoke inhalation. Three non-firefighters suffered burn wounds of unknown severity while another person suffered a case of smoke inhalation

Many of the structures lost to the flames were residences in a mobile home retirement community near the origin point of the blaze, officials said.

Television news helicopter footage showed rows of dwelling units at Rancho Monserate Country Club engulfed in fire or already reduced to smoldering rubble.

During a late-afternoon news conference, authorities urged residents of communities near the site of the blaze — and across the San Diego region — to remain vigilant in the face of ongoing threats of wildfire amid the dicey and unseasonable weather conditions gripping the area.

"We are nowhere near the end of this,'' county Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Ron Lane said. "There are going to be more evacuations. There are thousands of homes that are within the path of (this fire), and every resident needs to take this very seriously and be prepared to take care of themselves and their families.''

Sheriff Bill Gore called on the public to "stay alert'' and keep close tabs on the blaze via news accounts and local-government bulletins issued online.

"I can't emphasize this enough — if you feel threatened in any way, don't hesitate to self-evacuate,'' Gore said. "Get your family out of harm's way. Go to some relatives, go to some friends or go to one of the (evacuation) sites ... . But don't wait for that ... deputy to knock on your door, because there's not that many of us out there.''

San Diego County was quick to proclaim a state of local emergency due to the blaze. The decree, issued in the mid-afternoon, will help make the region eligible for state and federal resources.

Thursday afternoon, Gov. Jerry Brown issued a state emergency proclamation for San Diego County and Friday morning President Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration for the state due to the Lilac Fire and other large fires burning in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

"The president's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts,'' according to the White House. "Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize and provide, at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.''

Residents near the fire should not wait for a mandatory evacuation order or a knock on the door from law enforcement, Sheriff William D. Gore said. They should rely on common sense and leave their homes if they feel they are in danger, he said.

Evacuation Shelters

  • El Cajon: Bostonia Park & Recreation Center (1049 Bostonia Street)
  • Escondido: East Valley Community Center (2245 E. Valley Parkway)
  • Oceanside: New Venture Christian Fellowship (4000 Mystra Drive)
  • Oceanside: Oceanside High School (1 Pirates Cove Way) - reached capacity Thursday night.
  • San Marcos: Palomar College (1140 West Mission Road)
  • Carlsbad: The Forum at Carlsbad (1923 Calle Barcelona) is a temporary shelter
  • Carlsbad: Stagecoach Community Park (3420 Camino De Los Coches) - reached capacity Thursday night.

Authorities set up evacuation centers for the displaced at Bostonia Recreation Center in El Cajon, Carlsbad Forum in Carlsbad, East Valley Community Center in Escondido and at Oceanside and Fallbrook high schools.

People with horses and livestock were advised to take their animals to shelter at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. An estimated 46 horses were killed by the fire,  according to California Horse Racing Board spokesman Mike Marten.

The California Highway Patrol closed down state Route 76 from Gird Road to Old Highway 395 and blocked off the latter route between West Lilac Road and state Route 76.

Road and freeway closures

  • Gopher Canyon Road is closed from East Vista Way to Little Gopher Canyon Road
  • Old River Road at Little Gopher Canyon Road through Golf Club Drive
  • Camino Del Rey is closed at State Route 76 to Old Highway 395
  • Old Highway 395 closed from SR_76 to West Lilac Road
  • West Lilac Road from Old Highway 395 to Camino Del Rey
  • SR-76, from Old Highway 395 to Via Monserate (CHP estimates closure through Friday morning)
  • South Mission Road is closed at Winterhaven Road to southbound traffic all the way to SR-76
  • SB-15 to Old Highway 395 off-ramp is closed
  • Camino Del Rey at the Old Highway 395
  • Camino Del Rey at West Lilac
  • Camino Del Rey East of SR-76
  • SR-76 is closed between I-15 and East Vista Way

A contingent of about 700 firefighters from various area agencies was working to control the blaze as of late this afternoon, Cal Fire Deputy Chief Dave Nissen said. On Friday morning, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft are expected to join the other firefighting helicopters and air tankers assigned to the fire, he told news crews.

Overnight, aircraft from the city of San Diego and Kern County conducted water drops, according to Nissen.

About 70 sheriff's deputies were working in the fire-ravaged area, handling road closures and providing security for evacuated homes, Gore told reporters.

Campuses in at least 11 school districts including in Bonsall, Carlsbad, Fallbrook, Julian, San Marcos and Vista were closed Friday. All classes and campus events in the Palomar Community College District were canceled.

The county has issued boil water orders for some areas affected by power outages: the Boulevard Pines Movile Home and RV Park in Boulevard, Butterfield Ranch in Julian and Cameron Corners and Campo Group in Campo. The order will be lifted once tests confirm water in those areas is not contaminated by bacteria.

The cause of the blaze — which broke out amid a National Weather Service "red flag'' wildfire warning slated to expire Sunday night — was not immediately clear.

This is a developing story and will be updated as information becomes available. 

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