Fire scorches nearly 40 acres along I-8

SAN DIEGO - Six engine crews from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Monday morning doused hot spots flaring up from a smoldering brush fire that scorched 38 open acres in a Del Cerro canyon across the freeway from San Diego State University, authorities said.

The vegetation fire erupted a little after 4 p.m. Sunday just north of Interstate 8 and south of Adobe Falls Road, between College Avenue and Waring Road, authorities said. Flames threatened about 80 homes, prompting mandatory evacuations as ground crews and air-tanker helicopters worked to extinguish the flames.

Dispatchers reported that at one point Sunday evening, the fire burned as close as 10 feet from the westbound lanes of I-8, including a stand of palm trees that went up in flames near the College Avenue onramp to westbound I- 8. The proximity of the flames prompted California Highway Patrol officers to shut down all westbound traffic on the freeway at state Route 125.

San Diego police evacuated about 80 homes that were threatened by the flames, Officer John Buttle said.

"Many homes in the area were threatened but not damaged," Buttle said. It was unclear if all evacuations were lifted as of Monday morning.

At least three helicopters from the SDFD and Cal Fire San Diego doused the flames from above with water and other fire retardants. But six engine crews remained at the scene into Monday morning to knock down flare ups and hot spots.

Among other actions overnight, one of the crews reported dumping 500 gallons of water on a "smoldering, stubborn" palm tree stump, and another crew reported seeing glowing embers near two homes. It was unclear how long crews would need to monitor the burn area.

The cause of the blaze was unknown but under investigation this morning by the fire and police departments' Metro Arson Strike Team.