When two fires broke out in the East County on Thursday, residents prepared to evacuate. As NBC 7's Danya Bacchus reports, several were grateful for the quick response from fire crews.
At least two brush fires burned approximately 40 acres in the East County Thursday, causing bright flames and heavy smoke along eastbound Interstate 8.
On Friday, Cal Fire announced that the fires were sparked unintentionally by vehicles, not as a result of arson.
The fires began just after 5:30 p.m. along I-8 between Greenfield Drive and Los Coches Road near El Cajon. Crews from multiple agencies responded to the scene and began tackling the fires.
Lakeside Fire said one vegetation blaze began near Los Coches Road, while the other sparked near Dunbar Lane.
Lakeside resident Dianne Durrenberger immediately began preparing to evacuate.
"Smoke was billowing, we could see flames down here and then we saw it jump up onto the mountain,” Durrenberger said. “We were very concerned about us, and we were very concerned about all of our neighbors as well.”
Durrenberger has a group home near the fire and began assigning tasks to her staff. She credits the quick response from fire crews using a helicopter for saving homes.
“We feel blessed that the wind shifted and no homes were harmed, so we're grateful.” she said.
Fellow Lakeside resident Debbie Whittaker said she got a call from neighbors telling her the hill near her home was on fire.
She rushed to get home, worried about her two horses and dogs.
Her neighbors jumped in to help in her absence.
“I was just relieved that someone was here to load those horses,” Whittaker said. "It was really nice to have neighbors who were there for you."
Officials said the flames were somewhat near homes. However, Cal Fire Capt. Mike Mohler said no residents had been evacuated. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department also said no evacuations had been ordered.
By 7:10 p.m., Cal Fire officials said the fires had scorched approximately 40 acres, but the spread had been stopped. Fire crews remained on scene for several hours mopping up hot spots.
One lane on eastbound I-8 was open overnight. The second was expected to reopen Friday morning. Get traffic updates here
At the onset of the fires, as heavy smoke blew across the I-8 in the middle of rush hour. Mohler said at least 100 ground crews responded to the scene.
Some firefighters had the task of hiking into the brush along the freeway in order to gain access to more remote areas that were burning. Air crews also circled the scene, making large drops on the fires.
No structures were damaged.