A fast-moving wildfire scorched at least 1,500 acres and damaged some structures in San Diego County's Japatul Valley area near Alpine Saturday, prompting some evacuations and leaving thousands of residents without power.
CAL Fire San Diego first received word of the fire just before 3 p.m. off Spirit Trail and Japatul Road. Three hours later, Cal Fire officials said the blaze had grown to 1,500 acres, moving at a "dangerous rate of speed" west towards Lawson Valley.
The agency dubbed it the "Valley Fire."
As of 5:45 p.m., Cal Fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser said the Valley Fire was 0% contained.
By 11 p.m. Bortisser confirmed that the fire had burned and damages structures.
The fire sparked in the middle of a relentless heat wave sweeping San Diego County on Labor Day weekend. The county was under a red flag warning as the dry, scorching temps made for risky, fire-prone conditions.
As of 7:30 p.m., the National Weather Service said it was 94 degrees in Japatul Valley. The low for the night, according to the NWS forecast, would be 83 degrees.
San Diego Fire-Rescue said they have on Type-3 Metro Zone Strike Team consisting of three engine companies that are assisting with the fire. They said they will likely dispatch Copter 3 for night drops as well as other resources.
Residents from across San Diego County sent photos of the smoke from the Valley Fire to NBC 7, including locals in Crest, Fletcher Hills, and Rancho Santa Fe.
NBC 7 weekend weather anchor Crystal Egger said smoke was covering much of the county.
San Diego Air Pollution Control issued a smoke advisory Saturday due to the Valley Fire.
APCD said much of the smoke is high above ground level and can be seen throughout the northern half of San Diego County, but is not necessarily affecting people on the ground. However, in areas impacted by the smoke, fine particulates, or PM2.5 concentrations, may reach unhealthful levels.
They advised saying, in areas where you sell smoke, to limit physical activity and if possible, stay indoors to limit your exposure to fine particulate matter.
In areas of heavy smoke, assume that air quality levels are unhealthy for sensitive groups to unhealthy for all individuals.
Ground and air units battled the Valley Fire into the evening and night.
According to Egger, temperatures in communities surrounding the fire were at about 110 degrees Saturday, with a low relative humidity of about 10%. She said gusty east winds were recorded at up to 20 mph -- a recipe for rapid growth.
The blaze came during potentially record-breaking temperatures around the county. The red flag warning issued by the NWS remains in effect through 6 p.m. Sunday.
"If fire ignition occurs, conditions will be favorable for rapid fire spread and extreme fire behavior," the NWS warned.
Evacuations and Road Closures
Lt. Twyman, of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, said all of Lawson Valley including the community of Carveacre Road was under an evacuation order. Fire crews said there was a medium threat to structures in the area.
The sheriff's department said evacuees could go to Steele Canyon High School at 12440 Campo Rd. in Spring Valley or Joan MacQueen Middle School at 2001 Tavern Rd. in Alpine.
Bortisser said residents should heed all evacuation orders.
“We can’t emphasize enough if you’re issued an evacuation order or you feel the need to leave, by all means do," Bortisser said. "You don’t need to wait for somebody to knock on your door to tell you to leave. If you feel that threat, pack your belongings, grab your 'Go Kit' that we talked about for months at a time, and leave."
Just before 6 p.m., Cal Fire San Diego tweeted that the evacuation orders remained in effect.
San Diego County Sheriff's reported the following roadblocks where deputies will be at:
- Japatul Road and Carvearce Road
- Lawson Valley Road and Skyline Truck Trail
- Japatul Road and Sequan Truck Trail
- Japatul Road and Hidden Glen Road
Power Outages: SDG&E
At 5:15 p.m., San Diego Gas and Electric said approximately 12,700 customers were without power because the Valley Fire was impacting the utility's equipment in that area.
Just after 6 p.m., SDG&E tweeted a correction to that figure, saying about 1,000 customers were without power due to the Valley Fire. At last check, SDG&E's outage map showed about 1,000 customers without power in parts of Dehesa, Alpine and Rancho Palo Verde; the utility said the power was expected to be restored to those areas by 12 a.m.