A fire that has blackened 17,665 acres in rural eastern San Diego County is now 87% contained as crews continue to secure the charred area on Sunday.
“Fire activity was minimal overnight as firefighters continue to mop up hot spots and secure the fire perimeter,” according to a U.S. Forest Service news statement. “Structure defense remains a priority for values at risk. Every day the fire stays within its current perimeter, the threat to the adjacent communities continues to diminish. High pressure over Southern California will result in a warming trend into the middle of the week.”
The Valley fire, southeast of Alpine, has destroyed 30 residences and 31 outbuildings, damaged 11 other structures and injured three firefighters.
As of Sunday evening the resources dedicated to battling the fire include 48 engines, four water-dropping helicopters, two bulldozers, 15 water tenders, 13 hand crews and a total of 609 personnel, according to Cal Fire.
Fire activity was limited Saturday but a high-pressure system was expected to keep temperatures high through Sunday.
At noon Friday, Cal Fire announced that all evacuations and road closures necessitated by the conflagration, dubbed the Valley Fire, had been lifted.
Saturday morning, the county announced the reopening of the Lake Morena and Potrero campgrounds that had been closed during the evacuation orders. Campsites were available to book online.
However, the Cleveland National Forest remained closed to the public until further notice “to protect natural resources and provide for the safety of the public and firefighters,” Cal Fire advised.
“This closure will stay in place until conditions improve and we are confident that national forest visitors can recreate safely,” officials with the state agency said.
The blaze erupted for unknown reasons early Sept. 5 off Spirit Trail and Carveacre Road and spread rapidly through tinder-dry vegetation amid sweltering heat and high winds, Cal Fire officials said.
The agency cautioned those returning to the fire-ravaged area to “use extreme caution around trees, power poles and other tall objects or structures that may have been weakened” by the blaze.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department was increasing its patrols in the area to ensure public safety and prevent looting.
Officials advised that motorists in the area could face traffic disruptions due to the continued presence of firefighters, law enforcement personnel and utility workers still in the area.
Non-residents were asked to avoid locales in and around the burn zone if possible.
About 140 San Diego Gas & Electric customers in Alpine, Barrett Lake, Dehesa, Lyons Valley and Rancho Palo Verde lost power during the height of the fire.
Due to smoke drifting over much of the San Diego region, the county Pollution Control District advised that the air quality might be unhealthy in some local communities and advised people to limit outdoor activities until conditions improve.
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for San Diego County on Sunday Sept. 6 due to the Valley Fire, a move intended to free up federal relief funds.
County officials encouraged people who have lost their homes or other property to the wildfire to call for assistance at 858-715-2200 or email valleyfirerecovery@firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, a county assistance center for victims of the blaze will be in operation at Rancho San Diego Library, 11555 Via Rancho San Diego, on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Monday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Those who would like to help victims of the fire can make donations to a disaster-relief fund implemented by the San Diego Foundation, which can be accessed online at sdcountyrecovery.com.
– City News Service
Updated 9:35 p.m. Sept. 13, 2020