San Diego

Firefighters Battle Fire in San Pasqual Valley

Evacuations were ordered just before 4 p.m. for homes along SR-78. The fire has scorched an estimated 240 acres and "the potential for growth is still extreme," fire officials said.

What to Know

  • Pasqual Fire is burning between San Pasqual Valley and Ramona
  • Several streets south of SR-78 have been ordered to evacuate
  • State Route 78 was closed between Bandy Canyon Road in Escondido and Haverford Road in Ramona

A brush fire that broke out in triple-digit heat in San Pasqual Valley and scorched 365 acres of land was 95 percent contained by Monday, Cal Fire San Diego said. 

San Diego Fire-Rescue crews were called at 1:27 p.m. Friday for the fire burning east of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, along SR-78 and east of Interstate 15.

The Pasqual Fire forced the closure of state Route 78 and prompted the evacuation of residents in the Ramona area when it began marching to the southeast, scorching hundreds of acres. 

By 5 p.m. Friday, aircraft including a DC-10 were making drops in an attempt to control the fire burning through rugged terrain and threatening homes on both sides of the highway. 

The agency tweeted at around 7:30 p.m. that forward progress of the fire had been stopped but not before the blaze had scorched 365 acres of land. 

The Pasqual Fire was 80 percent contained Sunday morning and 95 percent contained a day later, officials said. Firefighters expect full containment by Wednesday. 

Aircraft from several fire agencies, including a Cal Fire DC-10 airplane, took turns Friday dropping water and fire retardant over flames in San Pasqual Valley.

Before evacuations were lifted Saturday, displaced residents were directed to Ramona High School located at 1401 Hanson Lane in Ramona, 92065.

State Route 78 was closed between Bandy Canyon Road in Escondido and Weekend Villa Road in Ramona, according to Cal Fire. Road closures were lifted Sunday.

On Friday, ground crews were trying to get around the fire to get an idea of what it’s doing, said Kelly Zombro, Deputy Fire Chief with San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

There were structures in the area, he said, but no structures were lost and no injuries were reported. 

"The potential for growth is still extreme," Zombro said Friday, noting the rugged terrain and extremely dry conditions.

The fire was moving in a southeastern direction, according to Cal Fire officials.

Zombro did not expect erratic winds or a heavy wind shift that would move the fire in the other direction. 

"With any luck at all,  the marine layer is going to come in and give us a chance but right now, it's off to the races," he said.

But a Ramona resident said winds in his area were strong enough to cause some damage.

"The winds were actually pretty strong. A nice, good size rock about 5 inches all around actually got picked up and went through the glass French doors in the back," Jason Cannon said.

The fire forced the evacuation of several streets near SR-78 Friday including:

  • Rangeland Rd
  • Oak Grove Rd
  • Highland Hills Dr
  • Rio Maggiore Drive
  • Horizon View
  • Cinque Terre Dr
  • Corniglia Dr
  • Via Cuesta
  • Via Vista Grande

The San Pasqual Academy self-evacuated, police said. 

NBC 7's Mackenzie Maynard reports from where firefighters believe the fire started.

Resident Ben Verkest was trying to get things packed up when he stopped to talk with NBC 7.

“It can take a turn at any time,” he said of the fire. “I just hope everything is under control and the winds cooperate." 

Zombro said even residents to the west should be very aware of the fire's growth and movement. 

"It's very wise for them to be paying attention," he said. 

Smoke from the fire was being carried east and filling the skies over Ramona.

A spokesperson for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park said Friday the park was operating as usual. They are always ready for fires, a spokesperson said, but they have made no moves to evacuate the park.

As always with fires in San Diego County, some residents forced out of their homes had to scramble to get their large animals loaded up and ready to go.

Ramona resident Debbie Westphal has nearly 20 horses and transporting them is quite the chore.

"I have 17 horses and I have three rigs that I can use to transport them, but it's just me alone so I have to rely on two friends to drive also," Westphal said.

She said two nearby large animal shelter facilities were full and she was having a tough time figuring out where to take them. But luckily for her, the horse owner community was there.

"We are all trying to help each other," she said. 'If someone doesn’t have enough room for their horses we are trying to help coordinate more trailer space."

At 1:40 p.m. Friday, the temperature in San Pasqual Valley was 102 degrees and the wind was 9 mph with 31 percent humidity. 

Images: San Pasqual Fire

Units from Escondido and Vista joined San Diego Fire-Rescue crews in fighting the fire.

Firefighting efforts are under a unified command involving CAL FIRE San Diego County Fire Authority, San Diego County Fire and Cleveland National Forest.

People affected by the fire were told to call 211 for the latest information.

Additional information was available through or the San Diego Sheriff's Department non-emergency line at 858-565-5200.

Please refresh this page for updates on this story. Details may change as more information becomes available.

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