San Diego

Evacuation Orders Lifted As Crews Gain Upper-Hand on Lilac Fire

The brush fire sparked Thursday morning in an area of dry, heavy brush near State Route 76 and Interstate 15 in Bonsall, a community in San Diego's North County

Firefighters gained an upper-hand on a wildfire in San Diego's North County that forced thousands out of their homes, allowing Cal Fire to lift evacuation orders to all residents Sunday evening.

The Lilac Fire in Bonsall was 90 percent contained as of Monday evening, and holding at 4,100 acres, according to Cal Fire.

Cal Fire reported 157 structures were destroyed and 64 structures were damaged in the blaze.

Cal Fire announced that all evacuation orders and road closures were lifted at about 4 p.m. Sunday. 

San Diego residents with homes between 5200 and 5800 Olive Hill Road and properties at the Rancho Monserate Country Club will need to show photo identification to access residences.

The retirement community of Rancho Monserate Mobile Home Park at the center of where the fire first began was hard hit, with dozens of units destroyed. NBC 7’s news chopper captured haunting images of those mobile homes being scorched beyond recognition.

The wildfire sparked at 11:15 a.m. Thursday along the State Route 76 and Interstate 15 interchange in Bonsall. Aided by gusty Santa Ana winds and low humidity, the blaze of no more than 10 acres quickly grew to 500 acres in 20 minutes, and finally 4,100 acres by Thursday evening. 

The Millers told NBC 7’s Alex Presha their power was off so they weren’t able to get the evacuation phone call. When the flames from the Lilac Fire came close to their home, they didn’t have enough time to leave. Thankfully, they are okay and their house was not damaged.

Cal Fire officials were cautious that an increase in gusty winds Sunday could hinder their progress by reigniting any hot spots that remain. Firefighters that were already working tireless 24-hour shifts braced themselves for dangerous weather conditions. 

A high wind warning was set to be in effect until 4 p.m. Sunday, with gusts of 60 miles per hour expected, but Cal Fire reported favorable weather conditions on Sunday morning. 

"While forecast Santa Ana winds came to fruition in the vicinity of the fire, the strongest winds did not surface near the fire," Cal Fire said. 

A Red Flag Warning will remain in effect until Sunday at 8 p.m. Cal Fire said. Firefighters will continue to patrol the area for hot spots throughout the evening and work to increase the containment lines.

The Lilac Fire that destroyed homes and forced thousands of evacuations in San Diego's North County is now 20 percent contained, and holding at 4,100 acres. NBC 7's Nicole Gomez shares the latest updates.

By Monday, winds will be much weaker and the fire weather threat will decrease to a "minor" level, Steven Harris, a forecaster with NWS San Diego, explained in a video on Twitter.

[NATL-SD] Lilac Fire Burns Near SR-76 and I-15 in North San Diego County

Cal Fire reported over 92,000 pounds of retardant and 230,000 gallons of water have been used in fighting the fire, along with 140 engines, 29 water tenders, 11 helicopters, 17 dozers and 33 hand crews.

On Sunday Cal Fire reported a total of 1,659 firefighters responded to the fire. That number is down to 1399 as of Monday evening.

Dozens of homes have burned to the ground in the quiet, rural communities known for their farms and ranches. Numerous animals have died due to the fire.

So far, three civilians have suffered burn injuries, while another was hospitalized due to smoke inhalation. Two of those victims suffered burns while trying to save elite training horses stabled at San Luis Rey Downs in Bonsall.

One was placed in a medically induced coma but had awakened Saturday morning, according to the Thoroughbred Daily News

Three firefighters have suffered injuries. One of those firefighters dislocated his shoulder, put it back in place and went back to work. Another firefighter was hurt Friday when a tree fell on him as he battled the blaze.

Some school districts in the fire zone were closed through Monday.  

More than 20,000 SDG&E customers across the county lost power Thursday. Approximately 9,200 remained in the dark Sunday, 1,700 of which were in the "Lilac Fire zone," SDG&E said. Outages could last several more days.

An evacuation center remained open at Palomar College in San Marcos for those displaced by the fire in need of meals and a place to rest. About 110 evacuees were reported to be utilizing the shelter. 

The Del Mar Fairgrounds were still serving as a shelter for large animals, including several horses displaced when the Lilac Fire encroached on the San Luis Rey Downs training facility. At least 46 horses were killed and several more were missing. 

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore estimated at least 10,000 people had evacuated their homes due to the Lilac Fire. 

A third firefighter was injured while battling the Lilac Fire after a tree fell on him at Ocean Breeze Ranch. NBC 7’s Ashley Matthews has the story.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for San Diego County, freeing up federal resources as crews battle the blaze. The county has also declared a state of emergency.

Cal Fire and San Diego County fire damage assessment teams are investigating the cause of the fire. 

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