Valley Fire burns 17,345 acres, multiple evacuation warnings, Air quality improving
ALPINE (KUSI) – Crews Tuesday continued working to quell the Valley Fire, which has scorched 17,345 acres in Japatul Valley near Alpine and was 3% contained.
The blaze continued to burn to the east on Monday toward communication towers at Mt. Pinos and the community of Corte Madera, Cal Fire reported.
The inferno began around 2:15 p.m. Saturday off Spirit Trail and Japatul Road. It had burned 17,345 acres and was 3% contained as of 6:30 p.m. Monday.
A new evacuation order for Corte Madera, south of Pine Valley, went into effect Monday afternoon, Cal Fire said. The mandate followed morning evacuation orders for Corral Canyon off-road area, Bob Cat Meadows and Los Pinos.
The U.S. Forest Service announced the closure of many national forests due to the ongoing statewide fire danger, including Cleveland National Forest. The park closed at 5 p.m. Monday, and the order will be re-evaluated daily as conditions change.
Officials are forecasting Santa Ana winds Tuesday that will likely spread the blaze, with 30 mph gusts possible through Wednesday, according to Cal Fire.
Structures were being threatened in Carveacre, Lawson Valley, Wood Valley, Lyons Valley, Deer Horn Valley and Sycuan Indian Reservation, Cal Fire San Diego said. Eleven homes and 25 outbuildings have been destroyed, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
As of early Tuesday morning, San Diego Gas & Electric reported power outages affecting 2,258 customers in the fire area.
Communities affected, when the Valley Fire damaged the electric system, were Dulzura, Potrero, Campo, Jamul, North Jamul, Lyons Valley, Barrett Lake, Dehesa, Alpine, Rancho Palo Verde, Buckman Springs and Morena Village. Power was not expected to be restored until noon Tuesday, SDG&E reported.
The utility said it has crews staged at the site of the fire and will work to restore power once Cal Fire determines it is safe to enter the area.
Due to the amount of acreage burned, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for San Diego County. The declaration will free up federal funds to be used in response to this and other fires. Additionally, through an agreement between Cal Fire San Diego and the U.S. Navy, six military aircraft from the Navy Third Fleet and the First Marine Expeditionary Force were used to fight the blaze Monday.
Cal Fire reported that 374 firefighters were on the ground battling the fire, and resources included six bulldozers, seven water tenders, and six helicopters.
The Orange County Fire Authority dispatched a “strike team” of five fire engines and two battalion chiefs to assist their southern colleagues on Saturday, joining crews from the Cleveland National Forest and Cal Fire.
The San Diego County Pollution Control District issued an updated smoke advisory Monday, saying air quality levels were unhealthy in areas of heavy smoke.
“Due to the Valley Fire burning near Alpine in San Diego County, areas of smoke are affecting parts of the county,” district officials said. “As of Monday afternoon, air quality remains good in and near the coast and has improved in the inland areas (Monday), where air quality is moderate. This trend of improving air quality in these locations is forecast to continue into Tuesday.”
“In areas where you smell smoke it is advised that you limit physical and outdoor activity,” officials said. “If possible, stay indoors to limit your exposure to fine particulate matter and ozone, especially those residents with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children.”
As of Tuesday morning, evacuation orders were in effect for Barrett Lake Dam, Corral Canyon off-road area, Bob Cat Meadows, Los Pinos and Corte Madera, according to Cal Fire.
Evacuation centers have been opened at Joan McQueen Middle School, 2001 Tavern Road, in Alpine and Steele Canyon High School, 12440 Campo Road, in Spring Valley. The evacuation center, which allows pets, was set up by the American Red Cross, which will supply water, snacks and other items.
A temporary evacuation point for large animals is the County Animal Services South Shelter at 5821 Sweetwater Road in Bonita. Contact county animal services at 619-236-2341. Residents who need help to evacuate animals from the brushfire can call the San Diego Humane Society at 619-299-7012 (press 1).
The cause of the Valley Fire was under investigation.