MOUNT LAGUNA, Calif. — A fire that broke out Saturday east of Sunrise Highway has jumped the roadway and has burned several structures, fire officials said Monday.
Firefighters have expanded the mandatory evacuation area from the Mt. Laguna Lodge south to Interstate 8. Fire officials told Fox 5 News that the fire has spread from the relatively sparse chaparral east of Sunrise Highway into the more heavily forested terrain west of the highway. Firefighters were concerned that the fire will begin crowning, or spreading rapidly from treetop to treetop, making it much harder to stop.
The wildfire has blackened more than 4,700 acres in rugged terrain southeast of Julian, forcing the evacuation of scores of back-country homes along with several campgrounds. Monday morning, officials said it was 20 percent contained, but by early afternoon, they reduced containment to 15 percent.
The fire destroyed or damaged at least eight structures, but it was unclear what type of buildings were engulfed Monday evening, though they were in the area of several campgrounds outfitted with cabins and lodges, said Cal Fire Capt. Mike Mohler.
The blaze, dubbed the Chariot Fire, erupted for unknown reasons shortly before 1 p.m. Saturday east of Sunrise Highway in the Chariot Mountain area.
The fire was threatening about 120 homes near Mount Laguna. Officials cleared residents out of 20 of those residences Sunday night and from the rest this morning, when the evacuation zone was widened to cover about three miles along Sunrise Highway, including areas to the west of the rural route.
The American Red Cross set up an emergency shelter for the displaced at Joan McQueen Middle School at 2001 Tavern Road in Alpine.
The International Equestrian Center at 16911 Gunn Stage Road in Ramona is open for people to bring their own pets and stay. Pets cannot be dropped off.
Any animals evacuated by Animal Services will be taken to Creek Hollow Ranch at 25279 Creek Hollow Road in Ramona.
Also evacuated was Horse Heaven Campground in Cleveland National Forest, as were the Al Bahr Shrine, El Prado and Laguna and campgrounds, and the Sierra Club’s Foster Lodge.
About 1,170 firefighters were working the lines Monday afternoon, including personnel who had to be airlifted in due to the steep and remote nature of the burn site. Ground crews were being assisted by 18 firefighting aircraft, including a DC-10 tanker that was dropping heavy loads of fire retardant in front of the flames. Four crew members suffered minor injuries while battling the flames, authorities said.
Four crew members have suffered minor injuries — three of them heat- related, the other a facial cut — since the crews starting battling the fire on Saturday, Mohler said.
Aiding Cal Fire in the effort were the U.S. Forest Service, California State Parks, and the county Fire Authority and Sheriff’s Department. The California Highway Patrol closed State Route 79 at Sunrise Highway and blocked off the latter roadway at Old Highway 80.
Anyone in need of emergency assistance should call 911.
The cause of the fire was under investigation.