As firefighter worked to extinguish the Gate Fire in Jamul on Saturday, evacuated residents were left wondering when they would be able to go back home, and even worse, if they would still have a home to come back to.
Wildfire season threatens the San Diego area every year, and for some, like Pat Pendleton, the 2007 fire season is still a fresh memory.
Every square inch of Pendleton’s 9-and-a-half-acre Jamul property was destroyed in a wildfire 10 years ago. Pendleton and her husband were safe from the scorch— they were in town when it started– but their dog, photo albums and family mementos all perished.
“It's a feeling I haven't had for a while, and now it's back.” Pendleton said.
She was parked in her car on Honey Spring Road for hours Saturday waiting to see if she could drive to her home near Dulzura.
It’s the same road where she parked 10 years ago on a Sunday waiting to learn her home’s fate. When she finally saw the damage for herself that Thursday, she said her property looked “like a moonscape.”
“I can’t,” she said in a semi-broken voice, trying to explain the emotions brought about her when she saw the flames roaring in the dry grass. “It’s very emotional. It’s a feeling that you tuck away and you don’t ever want to feel it again.”
She was confident that firefighters would have the Gate Fire under control sooner rather than later, but was understandably fearful given her past experience.
“I think they have a handle on things a lot faster than they had in 2007,” Pendleton said. “So they're doing a great job."
An evacuation warning for the Dulzura are was issued Saturday and some evacuees were escorted back to their homes overnight. Others took refuge at a Red Cross shelter site at Otay Ranch High School in Chula Vista.
As of 7:20 a.m. Sunday, the fire stood at 1,500 acres and was 30 percent contained, according to Cal Fire San Diego. Officials said that overnight temperatures and increased humidity allowed firefighters to make progress in fire containment.
Otay Lakes Road between Wueste Road and State Route 94 is closed, and all closures along SR-94 in the area of the fire have been lifted.
Cal Fire officials said the blaze began around 11:20 a.m. Saturday off SR-94 and Otay Truck Trail, near Otay Lakes Road, in an area called Pink Gates near a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint station. The area is south of Jamul and northwest of Dulzura.
The fire had swelled to more than 100 acres within the first hour, according to Cal Fire. By 5 p.m. the fire was reported at 800 acres and 10 percent containment, and by 9:30 p.m. it had grown to 1,000 acres and was 20 percent contained.