Crews battle Pala Mesa Fire. Photo via @CALFIRESANDIEGO Twitter

A wildfire spread over hundreds of acres near Pala Casino Wednesday, sending a thick plume of smoke over northern San Diego County as ground and airborne crews battled the fast-moving flames.

As of shortly before 7 p.m., the blaze had blackened about 350 acres, Cal Fire reported, and the spread of the flames had slowed considerably.

The blaze erupted for unknown reasons shortly after 2 p.m. off state Route 76, about a mile west of Pala Temecula Road in Pala Mesa, according to Cal Fire.

As firefighters worked to corral the blaze, which initially moved “with a dangerous rate of spread,” authorities shut down the state highway between Horse Ranch Creek Road and the casino about four miles to the east.

Authorities had advised residents of surrounding areas to prepare to clear out of their homes on short notice should conditions worsen, but CalFire reported the warning was lifted as of 8:40 p.m.

They also closed temporary evacuation sites, at Valley Center High School and a park-and-ride facility at SR-76 and Interstate 15, while re-opening SR-76.

No imminent structural threats were reported.

Updated 9:05p.m. June 23, 2021

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