The conditions in the East County were so windy and dry, firefighters said a small overnight fire could have easily grown to the size of the most destructive fire in state history.
“It could’ve been a big fire, as big as the Cedar Fire,” said Cal Fire Capt. John Fiehler.
Most San Diegans will never forget the 2003 fire that destroyed more than 2200 homes and killed 14 people.
The fire that had the potential to grow to such a serious threat according to Fiehler was a wind-driven fire that broke out Monday night north of Julian, in the foothills east of downtown San Diego.
Those fires are what firefighters fear in red flag conditions.
Cal Fire crews cut down brush and used shovels to keep flames from a five-acre fire from spreading along Julian Orchards Drive, north of downtown Julian.
The fire was first reported just after 11 p.m. east of the Menghini Winery, north of State Route 78.
Strong winds kicked up embers as crews worked to get a handle on it.
“We were chasing the fire to the north,” Fiehler said.
He explains that Cal Fire crews eventually spread out and tackled spot fires that sparked as far away as a quarter of a mile in the strong winds.
There were estimates of gusts from 30 mph to above 60 mph in parts of the East County overnight.
"When these winds come up, the winds control where the fire’s going and the direction of the fire," said Cal Fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser.
Eleven engines, four hand crews and bulldozers contained the fire and kept it from damaging any homes and businesses.
"It’s important that we put a lot of equipment on these and jump on them quick to keep them small," Bortisser
Fire crews won't be letting up until they know any hot spots are extinguished.
The fire's point of origin was traced to just outside a trailer on top of the hill, officials said. Investigators have the area blocked off and are looking into who owns the trailer.
An online tool provided by the U.S. Forest Service, SDG&E and UCLA suggests the risk of a wildfire from this Santa Ana wind event will be moderate on Tuesday meaning upon ignition, fires will grow rapidly and will be difficult to control.
The Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index, a classification system that analyzes the fire threat potential of the powerful Santa Ana winds, was rolled out in September to help homeowners and fire officials prepare.