Flames from burning pallets
Flames from the pallets set ablaze by the brush fire. Courtesy OnScene.TV

A wind-driven fire that charred hundreds of acres of vegetation near Brown Field airport and destroyed the stock of a sprawling pallet yard is now 75 percent contained, fire officials said Friday afternoon.

The blaze erupted for unknown reasons shortly before noon Thursday off the 5300 block of Airway Road, near Caliente Avenue in Otay Mesa, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

Ground crews and personnel aboard firefighting aircraft fought the eastward-moving flames, which began spreading near San Ysidro High School and for a time burned close to rows of apartments just south of state Route 905.

By about 6:50 p.m. Thursday, the blaze, dubbed the Caliente Fire, had grown to about 490 acres and was 50 percent contained, according to the SDFRD.

As of 5 p.m., containment was up to 75 percent and 70 San Diego firefighters along with nearly as many Cal Fire crews were still at the scene handling hot spots.

Late Thursday afternoon, authorities issued a mandatory evacuation order for areas south of St. Andrews Avenue, west of La Media Road and east of Cactus Road, most of which are commercial and industrial. A temporary shelter for evacuees was established at San Ysidro High School on Airway Road

At one of those commercial sites, an industrial yard off Cactus Road, the flames engulfed towering stacks of wooden pallets, causing nearby stored propane tanks to explode and sending a thick column of black smoke into the sky.

As firefighters worked to subdue the blaze, authorities closed the southbound sides of Britannia Boulevard and La Media Road, as well as the Cross Border Express airport terminal at the international line.

All evacuations and road closures were lifted by about 7:15 p.m. Thursday and the blaze at the industrial yard was extinguished around 3 a.m. Friday, according to the SDFRD.

The cause of the fire remains unclear.

–City News Service