Del Mar Heights brush fire burns 23 acres; 2 firefighters injured

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What to Know

  • All evacuation orders and warnings have been lifted
  • All roads that were closed due to the fire have been reopened
  • 23 acres burned, 80% contained as of 8:45 p.m. Tuesday

Two firefighters were hospitalized after battling a brush fire that flared up Tuesday in Del Mar Heights north of the Torrey Pines State Reserve.

The fire started near Mira Montana Drive off Del Mar Heights Road at about 10:30 a.m. The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department previously reported the small 1-acre brush fire had been stopped.

But by 2:30 p.m., the fire had grown out of control, more resources were called in and evacuations were ordered. Firefighters gained the upper hand at about 5:30 p.m. and forward progress was stopped but crew members remained on scene to increase containment.

The fire had burned to about 23 acres and was 80% contained by Wednesday evening. Roadways reopened overnight but some minor detours could be in effect.

Two crew members were taken to the hospital with heat exhaustion. They were later treated, released and recovering at home, according to the agency.

"The terrain is very, very challenging when it comes to fighting a fire because of the fact that it has not burned for so long ... We had a lot of rain this past January. We had rain last year, so all of that undergrowth makes it a very difficult fire to fight," said Mónica Muñoz, spokesperson for SDFD.

No homes were damaged in the firefight.

Firefighters are battling a brush fire burning near homes in Del Mar Heights.

When the fire re-invigorated around 2:30 p.m., a video shared by a viewer showed a plume of brown hazy smoke rising near buildings in the area. The fire was spreading rapidly and burning near structures with the large smokestack stretching inland.

The energy at the scene was urgent as dozens of firefighters fanned out throughout the neighborhood and into the canyon to battle the blaze. Helicopters blared above and pink flame retardant dotted the canyon and covered some homes.

By around 3:30 p.m., smoke had turned white and the spread appeared to have slowed, indicating firefighters may have regained control of the blaze. Firefighters were still tackling occasional flare-ups from the air, according to NBC 7 crews on the ground.

By afternoon rush hour Tuesday, heavy smoke could be seen from Interstate 805 at Nobel Road. Closed roads, which have since been reopened, caused traffic snarls on most streets in the area. Besides the homes, Del Mar Heights Elementary School, currently under construction, sits at the edge of the preserve.

About 150 fire personnel with San Diego Fire-Rescue, Poway and Encinitas and other supporting agencies were on the ground and in the air to tackle the blaze. They were aided by at least six brush rigs, four engines, a firefighting aircraft, and three helicopters, according to the SDFD.

"It’s very disconcerting to think there is only one exit out of this school because of this canyon," said resident Richard Conwell.

Despite the firefighter's handle on the flames, some residents were in for a restless sleep.

“I am a little concerned with the resources they leave here tonight. It could flare up again in the middle of the night," Conwell said.

At one point, firefighters had to fight more than just the blaze when a drone was spotted in the area.

"DO NOT FLY DRONES DURING FIRE AIR SUPPRESSION OPERATIONS. This creates an extreme hazard for the aircraft," the agency said.

It is illegal to fly drones that could interfere with emergency responses in California.

The person who launched drones in the area not once, but twice was identified and pursued by police, firefighters told NBC 7's Dave Summers. The drones caused three water drops to be delayed, fire officials said.

Torrey Pines High Schooler Weston Jackson was ordered to evacuate, but like many people, he returned to watch the spectacle of fighting this fire. 

Patrick was standing on the sidelines watching the firefight.

“I am not very scared I just think it is cool watching them dump the water," he said.

Firefighters and neighbors are keeping a close eye on a canyon area where a fire threatened homes in Del Mar Heights. NBC 7’s Shelby Bremer has more.


Approximately 2,500 residents were evacuated from the area under mandatory evacuation orders. Warnings were sent to approximately 1,400 residents.

As of 7:20 p.m., all evacuation orders and warnings were lifted, according to San Diego police.

A temporary evacuation point was set up at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, where the San Diego County Fair is closed on Tuesdays.

An evacuation map released by first responders showed areas under evacuation orders (red) and evacuation warnings (yellow). Those in the evacuation warning zones were told to be prepared to evacuate while those in order zones were told to immediately.

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