Firefighters battled for a fourth night Tuesday evening to subdue a wildfire that blackened thousands of acres near Alpine over the Labor Day weekend, leveling more than a dozen homes and forcing widespread evacuations.
Cal Fire reported Wednesday morning that the fire held at 17,565 acres overnight with 11% containment. The agency said the blaze has destroyed 20 “habitable structures” and 25 outbuildings, the state agency reported.
Strong, dry winds around the burn area have made efforts to control the blaze, dubbed the Valley Fire, extremely urgent and challenging.
Santa Ana conditions were expected in the northern reaches of the local mountains Tuesday evening and spread to the south overnight, with sustained wind speeds up to 25 mph and gusts as high as 50 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
The fire has resulted in two injuries, authorities said. It was not immediately clear if the victims were firefighters or civilians.
By Tuesday night, there were nearly 700 firefighters assigned to the blaze, along with 93 engines, 14 helicopters and eight air tankers.
Evacuation orders were in effect for Lawson Valley, Japatul Valley, Corte Madera Ranch, Lyons Valley, Carveacre, and WiseCarver, according to Cal Fire.
In Pine Valley, Descanso, Alpine, Ciejas, Dulzura, Barrett Junction and Potrero, residents were advised to prepare to clear out of their homes on short notice if the flames began closing in on their neighborhoods.
Shelters for the displaced were available at two schools — Steele Canyon in Spring Valley and El Capitan in Lakeside, which accepts pets, according to the San Diego Humane Society.
Tuesday afternoon, San Diego Gas & Electric advised East County residents that public-safety power outages might become necessary due to the potential for weather-related utility combustion hazards. However, none had been instituted by early evening.
The San Diego County Pollution Control District advised that air-quality levels were unhealthy in parts of the region due to the conflagration. The agency advised people to limit outdoor activities until the smoky conditions dissipate.
The U.S. Forest Service closed Cleveland National Forest indefinitely to keep the public out of harm’s way. Eight national forests were closed across California due to ongoing fire danger, including Angeles National Forest, San Bernardino National Forest, Los Padres National Forest, Inyo National Forest, Sequoia National Forest, Sierra National Forest and Stanislaus National Forest.
Among the imminently threatened communities in San Diego County were the back-country towns of Carveacre, Lawson Valley, Wood Valley, Lyons Valley and Deer Horn Valley, as well as Sycuan Indian Reservation.
As of Tuesday morning, SDG&E reported power outages affecting 2,258 customers in the fire area, including parts of Dulzura, Potrero, Campo, Jamul, North Jamul, Lyons Valley, Barrett Lake, Dehesa, Alpine, Rancho Palo Verde, Buckman Springs and Morena Village.
As the inferno spread, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for San Diego County, a move intended to free up federal relief funds.
To aid residents in need of a safe place to board their pets or livestock until the wildfire is extinguished, San Diego County Animal Services offered care and refuge for animals at shelters in Bonita and Spring Valley. Those in need of the services were asked to call 619-236-2341.
Updated at 7:50 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020
— From Staff and Wire Reports
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