Update: Gate Fire fully contained, evacuation orders lifted
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Tuesday — The Gate Fire, which has blackened about 2,055 open acres northwest of Dulzura, was fully contained.
Cal Fire crews are expected to remain on the scene throughout the day, mopping up and guarding against flareups.
#GateFire [update] IC reports that the fire is 100% contained. Crews will cont mopping up and patrolling today, please drive with caution.
— CAL FIRE SAN DIEGO (@CALFIRESANDIEGO) May 23, 2017
All evacuations ordered since the fire erupted late Saturday morning near state Route 94 and Otay Truck Trail have been canceled, and road closures along state Route 94 have been lifted, according to Cal Fire.
Monday 8:08 p.m. — Crews working to contain the smoldering remnants of a wildfire that blackened about 2,055 open acres in the far southern reaches of San Diego County over the last several days had the task nearly complete Monday.
The burn zone of the so-called Gate Fire was 95 percent surrounded as of 6 p.m., according to Cal Fire.
The blaze, which erupted late Saturday morning near state Route 94 and Otay Truck Trail in the Dulzura area, spread rapidly over dry, grassy terrain, prompting evacuations of homes and a campground in surrounding back-country areas but causing no reported structural damage.
The only known injury related to the fire occurred when a car struck a Chula Vista police officer who was directing traffic near the perimeter of the blaze. The victim was hospitalized for treatment of serious trauma.
Authorities began a criminal investigation into the origin of the fire after a video surfaced on Instagram, seemingly showing a group of people starting it and then fleeing. The person who posted the images is cooperating with officials, Cal Fire Capt. Issac Sanchez said.
All areas of active flame had been extinguished, evacuation orders in surrounding communities had been canceled and road closures along state Route 94 had been lifted as of this morning.
Firefighters hoped to have the burn zone of the blaze — which got its name from its proximity to a landmark pink gate in the area — fully contained by midmorning Tuesday, Sanchez said.
5/22/2017 — A criminal investigation was underway Monday into what sparked the Gate Fire in San Diego’s East County that had spread to 2,056 acres and was 75 percent contained.
— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) May 22, 2017
According to Cal Fire Capt. Issac Sanchez, someone posted a video on Instagram of what appears to be a group of people starting the fire.
"The person who posted the video is cooperating with investigators and it has become a criminal investigation," Sanchez told City News Service.
All evacuation orders and road closures were lifted by Monday morning. Privately-owned Pio Pico RV Resort & Campground on Otay Lakes Road remained closed.
— CAL FIRE SAN DIEGO (@CALFIRESANDIEGO) May 22, 2017
5/21/2017 — No structures were lost as of 6:30 a.m. Sunday.
The National Weather Service in San Diego issued an advisory Sunday forecasting elevated fire weather conditions for most of the county except along the coast Wednesday and Thursday.
The fire broke out at about 11:20 a.m. Saturday south of Highway 94, near the Border Patrol checkpoint east of Otay Lakes Road. Flames were first
spotted on a dirt road called the Otay Truck Trail.
It was primarily burning in grass and sparse brush on the flanks of Otay Mountain. That area is frequently used by target shooters, and it was apparently someone who was taking target practice that shot the video seen on Instagram.
The historic settlements of Dulzura and Engineer Springs were under a voluntary evacuation for several dozen ranches. Residents who evacuated as the fire spread Saturday were escorted back to their homes, firefighters said.
Firefighters from Los Angeles and Orange counties have joined local and federal firefighters from throughout San Diego County as a mutual aid to Cal Fire, the lead agency on the front lines.
The fire was reported to be about 10 acres in size when firefighters arrived, but quickly grew at a "dangerous rate of speed," Sanchez said. Hot, dry and windy conditions and rugged terrain helped the fire grow.
"Overnight temperatures and a rise in humidity allowed firefighters to make meaningful progress toward complete containment," Sanchez said. "Fire is primarily burning in grass with some sparse brush."
The Thousand Trails Pio Pico Campground on Otay Lakes Road was evacuated, and there was damage to infrastructure at the campground, firefighters said. Most affected people were relocated to a Red Cross evacuation center at Otay Ranch High School in Chula Vista.
Residents needing pet care were advised to contact the San Diego Humane Society.
Smoke from the fire could be seen for miles. It was dubbed the "Gate Fire" because of its proximity to a landmark pink gate along the highway that leads to an access road, according to Sanchez.
No firefighter injuries were reported, but a Chula Vista police officer was seriously injured while directing traffic at a street closure near Otay Lakes Saturday afternoon.
Containment was expected by Tuesday morning, Sanchez said.