East County wildfires prompt evacuations

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Hundreds of rural East County residents were under
mandatory evacuation orders Wednesday as more than 1,000 firefighters battled five
lightning-sparked brush fires — three that are fully contained and two that
are threatening to merge.

The roughly 400 evacuees, who were told to vacate their premises late
Tuesday afternoon by the county's reverse 911 system, live in the
unincorporated community of Ranchita and in the San Felipe area off Highway 78,
according to Cal Fire. Residents were invited to take shelter at Warner Springs
High School.

Evacuation orders remained in effect this morning as Cal Fire reported
that around 400 structures were threatened. Multiple road and highway closures
between Borrego Springs, Julian and Ranchita were also in effect early today.

“Firefighters continue to make progress, though there is still a
considerable amount of open fire line,” said Cal Fire Capt. Mike Mohler.
“Extreme terrain and distance from roads are making access to fires difficult
for ground resources”

Mohler added that fire continues to threaten the 69-kilovolt electrical
distribution lines in Grapevine Canyon that serve Borrego Springs, Warner
Springs and Ranchita.

Cal fire said 1,453 firefighters are fighting the five fires from the
ground and the air. The fires — collectively known as the Vallecito Lightning
Complex — scorched 9,325 acres as of 7 a.m. today, according to the agency.

The first of the blazes was the Vallecito Fire, which charred 519 acres
southeast of Julian since around 8 p.m. Sunday and was 100 percent contained as
of Tuesday night, Cal Fire reported.

The three other fires — the Wilson, Stewart and Cooper fires — each
erupted Monday afternoon, scorching ground northeast of Julian, near Scissors
Crossing. Cal Fire reported that the Wilson Fire burned 5,000 acres and was 5
percent contained as of this morning; the Stewart Fire blackened 3,800 acres,
with zero percent containment; and the Cooper Fire burned over only three acres
and was 100 percent contained.

The fifth fire — the Wynola Fire — broke out Tuesday and scorched
three acres in the Wynola area. It was 100 percent contained as of Tuesday
night, Cal Fire reported.

Authorities said the Wilson and Stewart fires could merge today.

No structure losses have been reported, but two firefighters were
injured, including one who suffered from heat exhaustion, according to Cal

The firefighters from Cal Fire and other departments assigned to the
five fires have been supported by 77 fire engines, 48 fire crews, 14
helicopters, eight bulldozers and 28 water tenders, authorities said.

Residents with questions about the fires are encouraged to call Cal
Fire's incident information line at (619) 590-3160 or follow the agency on
Twitter, calfiresandiego.

Categories: KUSI