While thousands of county residents have been affected by the Valley Fire, which has charred more than 17,000 acres since Saturday, local fire officials urged all San Diegans to be prepared to evacuate in the event of a wildfire nearby, as a Santa Ana wind event began Tuesday.
"I want to be very clear in my messaging: We have a sleeping giant that is in the backcountry, and while we have focused tremendous effort on the west side of the fire, tonight the winds are going to blow and this fire has the potential to burn," Cal Fire San Diego Chief Tony Mecham said on Tuesday. "We need the public to heed the warning of public safety officials."
In fact, it's possible that residents will only have 15 minutes or less to evacuate. Further complicating Tuesday's fire danger is the possibility of power outages if high winds prompt SDG&E to take transmission wires offline to reduce fire danger.
- The San Diego County Sheriff's Department issued new mandatory evacuation orders Monday for the areas of Corral Canyon, Bobcat Meadows, Los Pinos, Corte Madera (south of Pine Valley) and Barret Lake Dam. So far, about 1,420 residents have evacuated their homes.
- That's in addition to the previous evacuation orders for the communities of Lawson Valley and Carve Acre Road.
- An evacuation warning was in effect in the areas of State Route 94 and Marron Valley, as well as Lyons Valley Road area out to the Morena Reservoir.
- All evacuation updates tied to the Valley Fire can be found here.
An evacuation warning means evacuations are voluntary right now, not mandatory, but officials said residents should prepare to leave their homes if an evacuation order is issued.
Mecham was joined Tuesday morning at the Viejas Casino Event Center in Alpine by San Diego elected officials and fire chiefs to alert residents of the dangerous fire conditions. Sheriff Bill Gore said that 1,420 residents had been evacuated through Monday morning, with many of them going to temporary evacuation shelters at Steele Canyon High School in Spring Valley, and El Capitan High School, in Lakeside.
"Remember you don’t have to wait to be told to evacuate," Gore said on Tuesday. "You're the best judge. If you feel like you're in danger, take up your personal goods, your family members -- and let's not forget our pets -- and evacuate."
Residents are urged to assemble the following in case of evacuation:
- Three days of water
- Food supplies for evacuees
- Pet food
- Family photos
- Important papers
- External phone chargers
Residents should also consider various routes to take to leave their community and be aware of more than one route in case a preferred option is not safe to use due to the emergency.
County Supervisor Dianne Jacob warned residents to keep their phones turned on and charged, and to download the AlertSanDiego emergency app and sign up for the reverse notifications. She also stressed the need for everyone to have an evacuation plan that would include hotel rooms and locations to re-connect.
"Those impacted by the Valley Fire can mark themselves 'safe' or search for friends and family at SafeAndWell.org, a Red Cross website and free tool that helps reunite loved ones during disasters," the Red Cross said in an email sent to NBC 7 on Monday night. Residents may also want to download the ReadySanDiego SDEmergencyApp, which provides emergency information, such as incident updates, shelter locations, evacuation areas and hazard perimeters. Emergency Alert System radio stations for San Diego County are KOGO AM 600 and KLSD AM 1360.
Deputies will be going door-to-door on Tuesday to alert residents in evacuation-warning areas about the potential need to leave, and, in some cases, will urge them to evacuate now instead of waiting for the official order.
"If you are somebody with large animals, if you are somebody that has senior citizens living with you or special-needs population, or requires home medical care -- those types of vulnerable populations -- we are asking those people that are within the evacuation warning areas to leave now," Gore said.
Officials were also urging residents to check on elderly or other neighbors who might require assistance in evacuating.
Gore stressed that residents affected by the Valley Fire should prepare now to evacuate livestock.
"Now is the time to get them evacuated," Gore said. "If we wait till the last minute, big rigs end up clogging the back roads, making it impossible for emergency vehicles to get to where they need to go to fight the fire."
While large animals were evacuated to the Iron Oak Canyon Ranch, in Spring Valley, for much of Tuesday, county officials said later in the day that the ranch was nearing capacity. Because of that, animal owners are now being urged to evacuate them instead to the Lakeside Rodeo Grounds. Small livestock and pets can be taken to the San Diego County Department of Animal Services shelter in Bonita.
Firefighters are also warning the public about using drones around the firefighting area. While they understand it's tempting to use a drone to survey the area, they say the small unmanned aircraft can prevent aerial firefighting equipment from being used.