Grass Fire Burns Near Lakeside Homes

Despite several reports, SDG&E said they don't know if a transformer explosion caused the grass fire Thursday

A small grass fire burned several acres close to homes in Lakeside Thursday, Cal Fire and Heartland firefighters said.

Crews were called to El Monte Road and Lake Jennings Park Road after 7 a.m. About an hour later, Cal Fire said that crews had a perimeter around the fire and were still on scene controlling hot spots.

Four acres were scorched in what crews have named the "El Monte" fire. No homes were evacuated. Resident Deedra Rzecidlo said she left her home anyway.

"I smelled a faint smell of smoke, my chest, it takes your breath away," she said.

She saw fire right across the street from her home moments after her power went off.

One neighbor told NBC 7 that she heard a loud boom, then saw smoke and shortly after, flames moving over the hill toward the community.

Resident Tricia Wierenga said she’s very grateful firefighters got a handle on things so quickly.

“Looks like our houses will be fine but with these winds, that’s what worries me – that there could be flare ups throughout the evening,” she said.

There have been several local media reports that a transformer explosion prompted the grass fire however, according to Cal Fire, the cause was still under investigation.

San Diego Gas & Electric initially denied, then said it was not clear if a transformer explosion caused the fire. The company said the cause of the blaze was under investigation.

SDG&E reported an outage affecting up to 9,400 customers was occurring in the same area and due to extreme weather conditions. As of 9:45 a.m., all were restored except 84 homes. 

Utility crews were busy working on a nearby substation to restore power.

Nearby businesses operating without power for more than four hours were doing the best that they could early Thursday.

San Diego County was under a high wind warning for the third day with record temperatures expected again.

Some locals, like Mark Chu with Wow Donuts on Lake Jennings Park Road, said they were ready for the winds to die down.

"Getting worse," Chu said. "It was real calm but now it's started blowing a lot."

Cal Fire told NBC 7 all of its stations were fully staffed with resources ready to respond to reports of fire in these dangerously dry and windy conditions.

If conditions change, Cal Fire has the ability to change staffing pattern and increase resources.

There were 21 engines in the county as of Thursday with five engines sent to San Bernardino to help battle a brush fire there.

Cal Fire says the statewide drought has not provided a break in the fire threat between 2013 and 2014. The agency’s 18 engines were covered during the winter. In a normal year, the agency staffs just 5 engines in the winter.

Firefighters wanted to remind residents that 95 percent of the fires they fight are caused by people.

Remember not to throw out cigarette butts, try not to use BBQ or campfires under the high wind warning and when conditions allow, work to create a defensible space in your yard.

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