Barona Fire Chief Ken Kremensky updates efforts to contain the Valley Fire

JAPATUL VALLEY (KUSI) – Firefighting efforts stretched into a fifth day Wednesday as crews work to subdue a wildfire that blackened thousands of acres in rural eastern San Diego County, leveling 20 “habitable structures” and forcing widespread evacuations.

The blaze erupted for unknown reasons early Saturday afternoon off Spirit Trail and Carveacre Road in Japatul Valley, southeast of Alpine, according to Cal Fire.

As of 7 a.m. Wednesday, the blaze remained at an estimated 17,565 acres and was 11% contained, the state agency reported. In total, the fire has destroyed 20 “habitable structures” and 25 outbuildings.

Strong, dry winds around the burn area have made efforts to control the blaze, dubbed the Valley Fire, extremely urgent and challenging.

Santa Ana conditions are expected to continue Wednesday in the northern reaches of the local mountains, with sustained wind speeds up to 25 mph and gusts as high as 35 mph, according to the National Weather Service. Wind speeds are expected to peak Wednesday morning or early Wednesday afternoon, then slowly decrease through the evening.

The fire has resulted in two injuries, authorities said. It was not immediately clear if the victims were firefighters or civilians.

Evacuation orders were in effect for Lawson Valley, Japatul Valley, Corte Madera Ranch, Lyons Valley, Carveacre, and WiseCarver, according to Cal Fire.

In Pine Valley, Descanso, Alpine, Viejas, Dulzura, Barrett Junction and Potrero, residents were advised to prepare to clear out of their homes on short notice if the flames began closing in on their neighborhoods.

Shelters for the displaced were available at two schools — Steele Canyon in Spring Valley and El Capitan in Lakeside, which accepts pets, according to the San Diego Humane Society. Lakeside Rodeo Arena, at 12584 Mapleview St., was available to shelter horses.

Tuesday 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. As of 7 a.m. Wednesday, the utility company had shut off power to 49 customers in Descanso and Valley Center.

Another 16,666 customers in eastern San Diego County could face potential shutoffs Wednesday, according to SDG&E. Those customers are in the areas of Alpine, Boulevard, Campo, Campo Reservation, Descanso, Dulzura, Ewiiaapaayp Reservation, Julian, La Jolla Reservation, La Posta Reservation, Manzanita Reservation, Mesa Grande Reservation, Mount Laguna, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Pine Valley, Potrero, Ramona, San Pasqual Reservation, Santa Ysabel, Santa Ysabel Reservation, Viejas Reservation and Warner Springs.

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 7 a.m. Wednesday 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, western Descanso and Boulder Creek.

About 2,015 of those customers were expected to have power restored by 5 p.m. on Sept. 15, while the rest were expected to have power restored by 5 p.m. Friday, according to SDG&E’s outage map.

“Customers impacted by the Valley Fire could remain without power for several more days or longer,” the utility company said in a statement. “As soon as first responders grant access to the area, our crews will begin assessing damage, make needed repairs and restore service as quickly and safely as possible. Thank you for your patience.”

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.

Categories: Good Morning San Diego, Local San Diego News, Wildfires