San Diego

Evacuation Orders, Road Closures Lifted for Willow Fire in Lakeside

The fire began at around 12:20 p.m. at Willow and El Monte roads in Lakeside and grew to 52 acres

Just when firefighters thought they had control of a brush fire Wednesday in rural Lakeside, flames escaped the containment line, their fast spread forcing brief evacuations.

The "Willow Fire" began at 12:20 p.m. near the 14000 block of Willow and El Monte roads, east of Louis Stelzer County Park and north of Lake Jennings.

At 12:50 p.m., Cal Fire San Diego officials said about 2 acres of vegetation had burned. Ten minutes later, the agency said the fire's forward rate of spread had been stopped and crews would begin mopping up hot spots.

But then, things changed.

By 1:25 p.m., Cal Fire officials said the fire had "spotted outside the line" and their firefight wasn't over just yet. An additional 10 acres of brush had burned. Crews were attacking the Willow Fire by both air and ground.

At 1:30 p.m., Cal Fire confirmed evacuations had been ordered for residents from 14402 through 14470 Willow Road. Approximately 20 homes in the neighborhood were threatened, officials said. Those homes are surrounded by hills and heavy brush.

NBC 7 spoke with a family along Willow Road who had been advised to evacuate. The homeowner said they decided to stay, as the fire appeared to be under control.

At 2 p.m., NBC 7 learned that Oma's Pumpkin Patch, located about 6 miles away from the fire, was being evacuated as a precaution. There had been some preschool groups on a field trip at the pumpkin patch but the groups evacuated, a witness said. NBC 7 called the business at 2:35 p.m. but the line went straight to a pre-recorded message about the patch's hours of operation.

Just after 2 p.m., Cal Fire said the Willow Fire had grown to 20 acres and was 0% contained. Crews continued water drops over the fire zone. At 2:17 p.m., Cal Fire said the Willow Fire's forward rate of spread had been stopped.

And less than hour later, Cal Fire said all evacuation orders and warnings, as well as road closures in the area of the fire had been lifted.

Firefighters reached 10% containment of the Willow Fire just after 5 p.m. By 8 p.m., the fire was fully contained.

In all, Cal Fire said the Willow Fire had burned 52 acres.

The Willow Fire came just one day after the unrelated Dehesa Fire scorched approximately 200 acres near Dehesa and Sloan Canyon roads, also in San Diego's East County.

The Dehesa Fire was highly visible Tuesday afternoon throughout East County and prompted road closures and evacuations for residents along Sycuan Truck Trail and Sloan Canyon Road. Evacuation warnings were also issued for parts of Dehesa Road, east of Sycuan Casino, but the casino itself was not evacuated. The Dehesa Fire evacuations and road closures were lifted at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

As of 6:30 a.m. Thursday, the Dehesa Fire was 95% contained, Cal Fire confirmed.

Both incidents this week signal that fire season has arrived in San Diego County.

According to Cal Fire San Diego spokesperson Capt. Issac Sanchez, the three factors that most impact a wildfire are fuel, weather and topography. Together, the trio is known to lead to major wildfire incidents. Such was the formula in the November 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County in Northern California, which scorched 153,336 acres, destroyed 18,793 structures, and resulted in 85 deaths.

To sign up for evacuation alerts amid an emergency or disaster in San Diego County, visit the AlertSanDiego website here.

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