Camp Pendleton’s Base Commander said firefighters were using a burning technique to put out a wind-driven brush fire that erupted late Wednesday night in the 37000 block of De Luz Road near Fallbrook that grew to 3,050 acres Thursday, prompting mandatory evacuations and road closures.
Shortly after 6 p.m. fire officials cleared all Creek Fire evacuees to return to their homes as crews build a containment ring around the 3,050-acre blaze. It remains 0% contained.
“O’Neill Heights to the east into the Naval Weapons Station, that is the area they’re working on right now to burn out,” Brig. Gen. Dan Conley said in a late afternoon fire update. “If you light that off, it sucks the other fire into it and puts it out. That is what we’re trying to do.”
Conley said the fire department needs to set fires all the way up to the edge of the Naval Weapons Station and back up onto the county road. “That’s going to take a couple hours,” he said.
Camp Pendleton’s commander said fire crews continue to work the Creek Fire, which was first reported about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, about two miles west of Sandia Creek Drive. It quickly blackened 50 acres. It was unclear what sparked the blaze, which erupted amid a red flag warning issued by the National Weather Service.
The flames were pushed by the wind into Camp Pendleton early Thursday, according to the North County Fire Protection District, and by 6 a.m. had burned 750 acres. Because of steep terrain, difficult access and high wind speeds, the blaze quickly spread over a much wider area and, as of 9:35 a.m., had blackened at least 3,050 acres and was 0% contained, Camp Pendleton Fire Department Battalion Chief Ryan Rushing said.
No structural damage was immediately reported.
“They’re still doing some hand digging at the northern end where Fallbrook and the weapons station meet,” Conley said. “The intent is to close that off tonight, because when the winds shift tomorrow, we want to make sure that that’s already done, and it doesn’t blow out in town. They’ll do the controlled burn. They started that as we were leaving off of De Luz Road. That will sweep to the north, and hopefully burn out that area.”
Mandatory evacuations were issued about 1 a.m. for homes on De Luz Road, Main Avenue, Dougherty Street and Ceramic, Darla and Shady lanes in Fallbrook and De Luz Housing and Lake O’Neill campground on Camp Pendleton, according to Cal Fire and North County fire departments.
Shortly before 2:55 a.m. Thursday, additional evacuation orders were issued for about 7,000 residents on the west side of Fallbrook, south of Main Avenue to South Mission Road, according to Cal Fire.
Conley said earlier that officials initially decided to be very cautious about allowing those who were evacuated back into their homes.
“Neither of the housing areas are threatened right now,” he said. “But there is an abundance of caution. We don’t know what the winds are going to do. We don’t want to put folks in, and then the wind shifts and we’ve got really big problems. That’s why we can’t do it right now.”
The San Diego County Air Pollution Control District issued a smoke advisory for residents near Fallbrook and Camp Pendleton.
The agency warned that smoke will likely impact the area throughout the day and residents should assume the air quality levels are unhealthy for all people. Residents were advised to remain indoors, if possible, and limit physical activities in areas that smell like smoke.
Santa Ana winds and low humidity levels were expected to persist in the area throughout the day, creating dangerous fire conditions in the San Diego County mountains and western valleys, according to the Weather Service.
East to northeast winds were expected to reach 15-25 mph until this evening, with gusts potentially hitting 50-60 mph, forecasters said. Humidity levels were expected to be between 7-12%.
Conley said he would give another fire update about 7 p.m.
Conley’s update can be viewed at https://twitter.com/MCIWPendletonCA/status/1342248222136233985.
– City News Service
Updated 9:50 p.m. Dec. 24, 2020