A fast-moving brush fire swept through a residential area in University Heights, forcing the evacuation of homes, catching the attention of thousands driving along a busy highway junction and sending smoke into nearby neighborhoods.
Crews were first called out to fight the fire, which was located in a canyon on the south side of Interstate 8 below University Heights, near I-8 and Camino Del Rio South, at about 2:25 p.m. Thursday.
After successfully snuffing out the blaze, though, they had to fight a serious flare-up about 4 p.m. that raced up the hillside before firefighters could douse those flames, too.
The fire initially began not far from the Hilton and La Quinta hotels. The flames raced uphill in a narrow path but did reach the top of the hlll before firefighters checked their progress. A strike team in place at the top of the hill protected structures at the canyon's rim. Homes in the path of the flames were evacuated, affecting about 30 people, according to San Diego Fire Rescue spokesman Maurice Luque.
Firefighters on the ground began to get help from a firefighting helicopter a little before 3 p.m. and quickly got a handle on the fire, though they still had some work ahead of them putting out hot spots on the hillside. In all, about 6 acres were charred by the flames.
Later in the afternoon, about 4:15, the fire flared up again in a different spot, prompting fire crews to redouble their efforts fighting the flames. Some property owners along Golden Gate Drive, a road parallel to the canyon's rim, sprayed down vegetation near their property in an effort to protect their homes.
Fire officials say the wacky weather is changing the fire patterns they see.
"Lately we have been seeing some very unusual fire behavior," said San Diego Fire spokesperson Maurice Luque. "We have fires like this one that starts when the humidity is high and is spread really fast even though there are no winds. It's fuel driven basically."
There were no reported injuries. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.