Juveniles likely started brush fire near SDSU, fire official says

SAN DIEGO - A fire that scorched 38 acres of vegetation and forced the evacuation of about 80 homes in Del Cerro, north of San Diego State University, was "more than likely started by juveniles," authorities said Monday.

The so-called Adobe Fire was 85 percent contained by Monday morning and was fully contained as of 6 p.m., according to San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

"Metro Arson Strike Team investigators determined that juveniles were more than likely responsible for setting the fire," Munoz said this morning. "Investigators are still in the process of doing interviews and investigating, so we don't have a definitive cause yet. We don't have any other information besides the fact that the suspects are juveniles."

If investigators identify the juveniles, the case would then be evaluated for potential prosecution purposes, Munoz said, adding that "juvenile fire-starter cases are evaluated on a case-by-case basis."

The blaze erupted around 4 p.m. Sunday just north of Interstate 8 and south of Adobe Falls Road, between College Avenue to the east and Waring Road to the west.

The flames for a time threatened about 80 homes on or near Adobe Falls Road, prompting mandatory evacuations as ground crews and air-tanker helicopters worked to extinguish the flames, but crews managed to stop the spread of the flames. No injuries or structural damage were reported.

A half-dozen engine crews monitored the burn area overnight, and strike teams will be "performing mop up throughout the day" Monday, Munoz said.

"Overnight, there were a few hot spots that crews had to deal with," she said, noting that firefighters dumped 500 gallons of water on a "smoldering, stubborn" palm tree stump, and another crew reported seeing glowing embers near two homes.

Dispatchers reported that at one point Sunday evening, the fire burned as close as 10 feet from the westbound lanes of I-8 down the hill and across from the SDSU campus, 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 the California Highway Patrol to shut down all westbound traffic on the freeway at state Route 125 until about 10 p.m.

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," the officer said.

The mandatory evacuations were lifted around 8 p.m. Sunday, and residents with proof of identification were allowed back into the previously threatened neighborhoods, according to San Diego County emergency officials.

At least three helicopters from the SDFD and Cal Fire San Diego doused the flames from above with water and fire retardants while initially battling the flames.