San Diego firefighters continued efforts to surround a 5,300-plus acre wildfire blaze in East County, increasing containment to 90% by Tuesday on the fire that prompted evacuations as it tore through the Shelter Valley community.
Five structures, including three single-family homes, had been destroyed by the fast-moving Southern Fire, which sparked in the area of Shelter Valley west of Anza-Borrego State Park at around 4 p.m. Saturday.
About 500 residents, several from the Butterfield Ranch campground community, were evacuated for days as the fire rapidly grew in the hours that followed to at least 800 acres in size, driven by strong winds. They were allowed to return home on Monday.
By Sunday morning, the fire was estimated to be nearly 3,000 acres. And, by Sunday evening, the fire had grown to 5,184 acres. More accurate mapping on Wednesday measured the wildfire at 5,366 acres, Cal Fire said.
Those evacuated were sent to Agua Caliente Campgrounds on 39545 Great Southern Overland Stage Route, where the Red Cross of San Diego and Imperial Counties had set up a temporary evacuation site. At least 120 Southern Fire evacuees utilized its emergency shelter services, the Red Cross said.
Evacuated animals were sheltered at Vallecito County Park on 37349 Great Southern Overland Stage Route with the help of the San Diego County Department of Animal Services and the San Diego Humane Society.
Firefighters were still working to get a handle on the 5,366-acre blaze, which they had about 90% surrounded by Wednesday morning, according to Cal Fire San Diego.
But working to their advantage were far less severe winds than those that whipped through San Diego over the weekend, when 40-60 mph gusts pushed the fire eastward.
No injuries were reported.
The San Diego County Office of Emergency Services (OES) said the Southern Fire was affecting air quality to the east of the mountains.
The department said smoke was blowing into the southern portion of Anza Borrego State Park. They recommend if you smell smoke, limit physical and outdoor activity. Stay indoors as much as possible, especially those with respiratory or heart disease, the older population, and children.
Areas to the west of the mountains will not be heavily impacted.
The San Diego County OES urged residents to be ready for wildfires, especially this year due to continuing dry conditions and above-average temperatures that have the potential to make wildfires even more devastating.
The office asked residents to create a defensible space around their homes -- by using protective fuel breaks and fire-resistant landscaping, for example -- and to create a disaster plan and emergency kit.
Residents should also sign up for AlertSanDiego so they can be alerted to emergencies via cell phone, the county said.