A tanker drops fire retardant on the Border fire. Photo by Kevin Pack / Cal Fire

The effort to subdue a wildfire that has destroyed 17 homes and outbuildings, forced widespread evacuations and charred 6,723 acres near Potrero in the far southern reaches of San Diego County entered its fifth day Thursday.

Around 200 structures in communities near the U.S.-Mexico border remained threatened as the so-called Border Fire continued burning rugged terrain largely covered with thick chaparral and other dry vegetation, according to Cal Fire. More than 1,900 firefighters working from the ground and air had the burn area about 20 percent contained.

San Diego County Animal Services personnel evacuate a group of mini donkeys. Courtesy San Diego County

The blaze erupted for unknown reasons late Sunday morning near state Route 94 and state Route 188 amid an extreme heat wave. In the days since, authorities have evacuated residents of Potrero, Canyon City, Cowboy Ranch, Dog Patch, Forest Gate, Star Ranch and Lake Morena Village.

But by late Wednesday afternoon, the fire had retreated far enough from Potrero that authorities gave a go-ahead for some residents of the rural community to re-enter their neighborhoods, fire officials said.

“This is still a dynamic and active fire, residents in the surrounding area of the fire should continue to be prepared to evacuate if need be,” according to a Cal Fire statement.

A makeshift shelter for those who remain displaced has been set up at Los Coches Creek Middle School on Dunbar Lane in Alpine.

Cal Fire map shows extent of the fire north of the border.

Those with livestock were able to take their animals to a Border Patrol station on Ribbonwood Road in Boulevard. A second large animal shelter at Circle T Ranch in Descanso was about at capacity, according to county officials.

The blaze has leveled five homes and a dozen auxiliary buildings, left three firefighters with minor heat-related ailments and forced the closure of the Pacific Crest Trail from the southern boundary of Cleveland National Forest to just south of Hauser Canyon.

State Route 94 was blocked off from stated Route 188 to Mountain Empire RV Park until further notice. Due to the closure, Metropolitan Transit System officials modified Route 894 to only service the area between El Cajon and Tecate.

The blaze also caused power outages that at one point affected more than 1,000 homes and businesses in Potrero and the nearby communities of Campo and Dulzura, according to San Diego Gas & Electric. Service has mostly been restored, and crews expect a full restoration by 6 a.m. Friday.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.