100-acre brush fire near Safari Park was ‘deliberately set,’ investigators say

ESCONDIDO, Calif. -- A brush fire that broke out Monday afternoon about a mile west of the San Diego Safari Park was ruled to be arson by investigators.

The fire started in the 21200 block of San Pasqual Road and was burning in a valley among a stand of eucalyptus trees. The fire was threatening a home and other structures.

As of 3:20 p.m., several fire crews were on the ground battling the blaze, but air support had not arrived. About 3 to 4 acres had burned according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. As of 3:30 p.m., helicopters had begun dropping water on the blaze.

Shortly before 7 p.m., the fire had grown to 100 acres, was 15 percent contained and the forward rate of spread had been stopped, according to San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokeswoman Monica Munoz. Fire crews from San Diego, Escondido, Cal Fire and other fire agencies were working to put out the fire, Cal Fire Capt. Issac Sanchez said. Ground crews were being assisted by three water-dropping helicopters and two fixed-wing air tankers flying out of Ramona, Sanchez said.

The fire, which is being called the Cloverdale Fire, had left the valley floor and was spreading to the northeast in the general direction of the Safari Park, but the park was not evacuating animals, Sanchez said. As of 5 p.m., no homes or building had burned.

One firefighter suffered a minor injury and was treated at the scene, according to SDFD.

The fire was burning about five miles west of the Rangeland and Pasqual fires that both broke out in the San Pasqual Valley in the last two weeks, Sanchez said.

All lanes of state Route 78 were closed from Cloverdale Road in the west to just east of the Safari Park.

Sheriff's deputies helped evacuate residents from homes in the 1440 and 21200 blocks of San Pasqual Road. Evacuation warnings were given for Rockwood Road and Brillwood Hill Road. Residents and animals were being evacuated to San Pasqual High School located at 3300 Bear Valley Parkway. Shortly before 9 p.m., all evacuation warnings and orders had been lifted.

The Safari Park closed at 4 p.m. and all visitors were evacuated.

SDFD Metro Arson Strike Team investigators determined the fire was "deliberately set."