Crews from the Lakeside Fire Protection District battle the Valley Fire. Photo via Instagram @lakesidefiredist.

The Valley Fire in the Japatul Valley near Alpine had burned 9,850 acres with 1% containment and continued to rage at a critical and dangerous rate of spread, Cal Fire San Diego said Sunday.

As of 8:45 p.m., the blaze had destroyed 11 structures, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

More were being threatened in Carveacre, Lawson Valley, Wood Valley, Lyons Valley, and Deer Horn Valley, Cal Fire said.

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 the fires.

The fire began at approximately 2:15 p.m. Saturday off Spirit Trail and Japatul Road.

Cal Fire reported that 374 firefighters were on the ground battling the fire and resources include four bulldozers and five water tenders.

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 a smoke advisory Sunday, saying air quality levels were unhealthy.

“Due to the Valley Fire burning near Alpine in San Diego County, areas of smoke are affecting parts of the county,” district officials said. “The smoke continues to disperse above ground level away from the immediate area of the fire and is generally blowing toward the west-northwest as of Sunday afternoon. Smoke impacts are likely in areas near the fire, where fine particulates may reach unhealthful levels.

“In areas of heavy smoke, assume that air quality levels are unhealthy for sensitive groups to unhealthy for all individuals. In areas with minor smoke impacts, assume that air quality levels range from moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups.”

Meteorological conditions were expected to improve air quality and shift the trajectory of the smoke toward the east and northeast on Monday, pollution control officials said.

The National Weather Service issued a “Fire Weather Watch” beginning at mid-day Tuesday, in local deserts and mountains, warning of strong gusty winds and low humidity. The alert will remain in effect through Wednesday evening.

Cal Fire also reported Sunday that there was a threat to Sunrise Power 500 KV power lines, which supply a large portion of the region’s electricity.

“Firefighters are working against extreme fire behavior with wind-driven runs and long-range spotting,” the agency said.

On Sunday morning, San Diego Gas & Electric reported power outages affecting 1,288 customers in the fire area.

Communities affected when the Valley Fire damaged the electric system were Dulzura, Potrero, Campo, Jamul, North Jamul, West Jamul, Lyons Valley, Barrett Lake, Dehesa, Alpine, West Alpine, Rancho Palo Verde, Harbison Canyon, Glen Oaks, Jamacha and Indian Springs. Power was not expected to be restored until noon Monday, SDG&E said.

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.

At about 4 p.m. Saturday, Cal Fire said the community of Carveacre Road was threatened and under evacuation orders. An hour later, an evacuation order was issued for all of Lawson Valley. The fire front was one-mile long, according to Southern California Air Operations.

The evacuation center at Joan McQueen Middle School in Alpine was closed, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

The evacuation center at Steele Canyon High School, 12440 Campo Road in Spring Valley, was still open Sunday. 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 brush fire can call the San Diego Humane Society at 619-299-7012 (press 1).

– City News Service

Updated at 4:31 p.m. and 9:35 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020

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