A brush fire that burned in San Diego’s North County was 100 percent contained by Tuesday morning, but remains at 70 acres, Cal Fire confirmed.
By 6 p.m. Sunday all evacuation orders had been lifted, and all roads that were closed in the area were opened.
After being 95 percent contained Thursday, the fire flared up again Friday, scorching 70 fresh acres and requiring new efforts on the fire line, officials said.
The fire, along the 38000 block of Pala Temecula Road in Pala, California, kicked up again at around 3:10 p.m. Friday, Cal Fire officials said. The winds in the area blew embers and fueled hot spots left over from a 45-acre blaze that firefighters had been tackling ever since Tuesday, when it initially sparked at a home on Pala Temecula Road and then quickly spread to surrounding vegetation.
[G] Pala Fire Hot Spots Amid Heat Wave, Mandatory Evacuations Ordered
From the time it reignited, the Pala Fire scorched another 70 acres, forcing mandatory evacuations for residents on the east side of Pala Temecula Road. The fire was 90 percent contained as of 12:30 p.m. Sunday, crews said.
Pala Temecula Road, initially shut down, was opened in both directions to everyone.
Cal Fire officials said 70 to 100 structures were threatened by the flames. Evacuations were ordered around 5 p.m. Friday as the fire crept towards Rancho Heights, and some residents were later allowed to return to their homes.
An evacuation shelter was established at Great Oak High School on Deer Hollow Way in Temecula for those impacted by the blaze. Humane Society volunteers were also on-hand to help evacuate livestock in the rural neighborhood.
[G] Mandatory Evacuations Ordered, Pala Fire Spreads to 45 Acres
Some residents had to evacuate not just once, but twice over the course of both rounds of the Pala Fire, including John Almendarez.
"I couldn’t get home and my wife was there today and saw smoke again and saw flames from our property that were kind of across the canyon," Almendarez told NBC 7.
Multiple ground units and air tankers were sent to the fire line.
At around 10 p.m. Friday, evacuees were allowed to return to their homes, Cal Fire officials said, as firefighters held the Pala Fire at 70 acres. Just before 11 p.m., authorities reopened some roads in the area, but only to residents making their way back into their homes.
Cal Fire and County Fire Chief Tony Mecham said the forward rate of spread of the fire was stopped Saturday. At 10:30 a.m. Saturday, officials said Pala Temecula Road had reopened in both directions, for residents only.
"Drivers are encouraged to be extra cautious and drive slowly because firefighters are still working in the surrounding areas," fire officials added.
On Sunday, NBC 7 meteorologist Greg Bledsoe said high winds may hinder firefighting efforts as expected 20 mile-per-hour gusts swept into the county.
“We’ll see slightly stronger winds today, which means firefighters may be dealing with a few gusts around 20mph as they work to put out the Pala fire," said Bledsoe.
Cal Fire officials also assured they had an upperhand on the situation Saturday.
"Firefighters are making good progress. Please watch out for fire personnel and equipment nearby," officials said in an 8 a.m. update.
According to Cal Fire officials, the first round of the Pala Fire destroyed eight unoccupied outbuildings in the area. By the time Thursday evening rolled around, the fire was 95 percent contained.
However, soaring temperatures and a heat wave in Southern California proved to be a setback in the fight against the fire Friday, when it reignited.
Cal Fire officials said approximately 250 fire personnel from agencies in San Diego's North County and Riverside County worked together to fight the Pala Fire. Crews enlisted the help of seven water tankers and five helicopters.
Cal Fire spokesman Kendall Bortisser said the steep terrain where the Pala Fire sparked hasn’t burned since the 1940s, so fire crews were challenged with thick, heavy brush.