A fast-moving bushfire that ignited Saturday in the Japatul Valley of San Diego County's southeastern Alpine region scorched 4,000 acres and destroyed 10 buildings, California Department of Forestry and Fire Safety officials said Sunday.
The flame is contained to zero percent.
Carveacre Township residents have been evacuated and emergency shelter has been set up at Steele Canyon High School in Jamul. A second shelter at the Joan MacQueen Middle School in Alpine was closed on Sunday morning. Power lines in the area were also affected during the fire, which resulted in some in the area losing operations.
The fire – called the valley fire – was probably lit by a tractor fire around 2:50 p.m. Saturday, local residents said, however, Cal Fire has not officially confirmed the cause and is still investigating.
At 7 a.m. on Sunday, there were several hundred firefighters on the ground and several air tankers and fire helicopters in the sky fighting the fire.
Cal Fire couldn't tell what type of structures the fire destroyed, but according to a video broadcast by 10News there were at least two houses on the Montiel Truck Trail in Jamul.
The fire threatened additional structures in Carveacre and Lawson Valley, and four more roads were closed on Sunday morning: Gaskill Peak Road, Lost Trail, Hondo Lane and Emmanuel Way.
According to official sources, a number of challenges will complicate Sunday's firefight.
"Certainly the temperature will be a challenge," said Cal Fire spokesman Kendal Bortisser. "The steep terrain, all the inaccessible areas, the old growth that has been around for a long time, that is dry and ready to burn – all of these will be factors."
The conditions firefighters are exposed to are brutal. On Saturday, temperatures were measured on site from 110 to 115 degrees. On Sunday, they will drop to about 109 degrees, but Jake Rodriguez, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service and the Cleveland National Forest, said winds of up to 20 mph from the east and northeast are expected in the afternoon.
“That can matter. It's not quite a Santa Ana, but that means it's starting to push the fire instead of the fire that follows the topography of the land, ”said Rodriguez. "Regardless of the direction in which the wind blows the fire, staining can occur, meaning that embers are carried up to half a mile in front of the fires and start new point fires."
American Red Cross officials said 16 families had sought refuge at the Steele Canyon evacuation site. About 10 families sought help at the Joan MacQueen site on Saturday but left after receiving help with housing.
Family pets are also welcome at Steele Canyon. Sheriff's officials said large pets can be housed in the county's Animal Services South Shelter at 5821 Sweetwater Road, Bonita. For more information, call (619) 236-2341 or the San Diego Humane Society at (619) 299-7012.
Bill Fincher, who lives in Lawson Valley, said most of his family, including three dogs and a lizard, evacuated their home on the Wood Valley Trail when the sun set on Saturday. His wife, Rachelle, stayed on their ranch.
"She said," I won't go until I see flames, "Fincher said." I spoke to her today. She said the house looks nice. "
Fincher's son, Brandon Fincher, goes to school in Prescott, Arizona and decided to visit his family with a friend over the weekend. They saw smoke from the flame as they drove into town and watched the cloud of smoke grow.
"Then we heard an explosion like a propane tank in the distance," said the younger Fincher. "As the sun went down and we could see flames in the distance, we thought, 'Oh, we should go. "
Soon after, they learned that the power supply in their house had failed.
San Diego Gas & Electric said its Sunrise Powerlink, a 117-mile transmission line connecting renewable energy sources from Imperial Valley to San Diego, is out of service.
On Sunday morning, helicopters washed the lines to remove soot and other debris that had settled on the equipment during the fire. Pilots in helicopters also inspected the line to see if it was damaged.
SDG&E staff said that as soon as Cal Fire notifies the utility that it is safe to get into the area, the utility crews will move in and determine what will be required to get the line back up and running.
In addition, the heat wave in the San Diego area resulted in approximately 15,000 SDG&E customers losing electricity in the late afternoon and Saturday evening hours. Up to 36 circuits were out of order. It took many customers until Sunday morning to restore power.
On Sunday at 11 a.m., the SDG&E power outage map showed nine power circuits offline, of which 4,035 customers were affected. The largest outage affected 1,462 customers in the Casa De Oro-Spring Valley region as of 7:59 p.m. Saturday, the power supply is expected to be restored at 5 p.m. Sunday. A route with 1,020 customers in the Campo-Jamul region was canceled at 3:55 p.m. and should not be operational again until 5 p.m. Sunday.
Winkley and Kragen write for the San Diego Union-Tribune. The authors Karen Pearlman and Rob Nikolewski contributed to this report.