SAN DIEGO — Crews worked through the night taking advantage of calmer winds early Wednesday as they cut a containment line around a wildfire that has charred just under 1,600 acres of brushy open land west of Black Mountain.
The so-called Bernardo Fire erupted around 11 a.m. Tuesday off Nighthawk Lane, southwest of Rancho Bernardo, according to Cal Fire. As of 6 a.m., the blaze was 25 percent contained and most of the flames had died down, said Cal Fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser. Crews hoped to have the fire 50 percent contained by Wednesday evening, he said.
” We’ve had crews out all night long — field observers on the ground, mapping folks that have been walking the fire to determine the exact perimeter, how large it is exactly and what the containment is like,” Bortisser said. “We still have winds coming in later this morning. We have high temperatures. We’re going to be in the hundreds today, and we have those low humidities. And so all of those factors together keep us in a red flag fire warning, and so we’re still on heightened alert. We’re going to have a lot of crews out there today, both on the ground and in the air, that are picking up all the hot spots, mopping up and making sure that we don’t leave until every ember is gone.”
Crews will focus on the canyons in Fairbanks Ranch and east Rancho Santa Fe Wednesday, fire officials said. They will send hand crew in to clear brush.
About 400 firefighters will remain on the fire line Wednesday. Four water-dropping helicopters, assisted by two fixed-wing spotter planes will concentrate on dousing hot spots and flareups throughout the day, officials said.
In the early hours of the fire, the sheriff’s department evacuated more than 5,000 homes and businesses in communities between the Rancho Penasquitos and Rancho Santa Fe areas. Evacuation orders were lifted for the Fairbanks Ranch and eastern Rancho Santa Fe areas around 8 p.m. Tuesday, sheriff’s officials said.
No injuries or structural damage were reported as of early Tuesday evening. Authorities were expected to give an update on their progress at 8:30 this morning.
Also evacuated on Tuesday were several area schools in the Poway Unified School District. On its website, the district said all of its schools would be open Wednesday, though it was understood many pupils may be absent if their families remained displaced.
The Rancho Bernardo High School evacuation center at 13010 Paseo Lucido remained open today. The Torrey Pines High School center was closed.
Although winds died down for firefighters overnight, the National Weather Service said more strong Santa Ana winds — possibly up to 75 miles per hour in the most wind-prone areas — were in store for today. The agency issued a red flag warning for strong winds, dry conditions and warm temperatures for the inland valleys and mountain areas until 8 tonight.
The cause of the Bernardo Fire was under investigation.