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Wildfire near Jamul 75% contained; evacuations lifted

JAMUL, Calif. -- Evacuations have been lifted for residents threatened by a wildfire burning south of Jamul that has charred about 2,000 acres and was 75 percent contained as of Monday morning, authorities said.

Evacuation orders and warnings for Dulzura, Engineer Springs and the Thousand Trails Pio Pico Campground issued after the blaze started in the vicinity of state Route 94 and Otay Truck Trail late Saturday morning have been canceled, according to Cal Fire.

Road closures along state Route 94 have also been lifted, authorities said.

"Overnight temperatures and a rise in humidity allowed firefighters to make meaningful progress toward complete containment," according to Cal Fire.

The Red Cross closed the evacuation center at Otay Ranch High School Monday at noon.

The fire broke out at about 11:20 a.m. Saturday south of Highway 94, near the Border Patrol checkpoint east of Otay Lakes Road. Flames were first spotted on a dirt road called the Otay Truck Trail.

It was primarily burning in grass and sparse brush on the flanks of Otay Mountain.

The fire was reported to be about 10 acres in size when firefighters arrived, but quickly grew at a "dangerous rate of speed," Sanchez said. Hot, dry and windy conditions and rugged terrain helped the fire grow.

The Thousand Trails Pio Pico Campground on Otay Lakes Road was evacuated, and there was damage to infrastructure at the campground, firefighters said. Most affected people were relocated to a Red Cross evacuation center at Otay Ranch High School in Chula Vista.

Smoke from the fire could be seen for miles. It was dubbed the "Gate Fire" because of its proximity to a landmark pink gate along the highway that leads to an access road, according to Sanchez.

No firefighter injuries were reported, but a Chula Vista police officer was seriously injured while directing traffic at a street closure near Otay Lakes Saturday afternoon.

The Gate Fire became a criminal investigation Sunday afternoon, according to Cal Fire.

Someone posted a video on Instagram of what appears to be a group of people starting the fire, according to Cal Fire Capt. Issac Sanchez.

"The person who posted the video is cooperating with investigators and it has become a criminal investigation," Sanchez told City News Service.

Christopher Carvalho, the man who recorded the video, told FOX 5 he called 911 to tell authorities about the fire. He said he thought it was irresponsible for the people involved in starting the fire to walk away and not wait for firefighters to get there.

Carvalho said the people appeared to be shooting some type of bullet that could spark a fire.