Fast-moving wildfire triggers evacuations in Ramona

Data pix.

SAN DIEGO -- A brush fire spread rapidly in the Ramona area of northeast San Diego County Friday, destroying an unoccupied mobile home and forcing evacuations.

The blaze, dubbed the Sawday Fire, started along Sawday Truck Trail near the rural neighborhood of Witch Creek around 9 a.m. Sawday Truck Trail runs between Ramona and the Julian area, parallel to state Route 78.

Cal Fire said crews from a nearby station arrived within minutes of the fire starting but it had already grown to two or three acres. The flames spread to 97 acres and were 15% contained by 1 p.m. Officials said at that time that they had stopped the fire from spreading further.

By 6 p.m. Sunday, Cal Fire officials said firefighters had reached 95% containment of the flames.

About 150 firefighters and multiple water-dropping aircraft from Cal Fire and other agencies were called to the area to fight the blaze. "Although crews continue to make significant progress, the fire is being influenced by significant (eastward) winds," Cal Fire said around 11 a.m.

One building was engulfed in flames and others were threatened, officials said. When it first started, the blaze was moving at a "critical rate of spread," according to Cal Fire.

Officials ordered evacuations for about 170 people from homes and businesses on the following streets:

  • Sawday Truck Trail
  • Littlepage Road
  • Littlepage Lane
  • Old Julian Highway
  • Creek Hollow Drive
  • Creek Hollow Road

An evacuation center was set up temporarily at the Ramona Rodeo on Aqua Lane. Sheriff's deputies went door-to-door helping people leave home.

"It was intense," Therese Grybow said.  Grybow's family lost their barn in the 2007 Witch Creek Fire that sparked in the same area.

"Us in San Diego, we just kind of get prepared and can anticipate that it could happen,' Grybow said.

By 5:40 p.m. Friday, all evacuations orders had been lifted.

California Highway Patrol closed all lanes of SR-78 between Third Street and Old Julian Highway, though it was reopened by 11 a.m.

Ramona Unified School District said students would remain inside due to poor air quality, but no classes were cancelled and no campuses were forced to evacuate.

The blaze came as San Diego County was on high alert for fire danger, with National Weather Service issuing a Red Flag Warning and San Diego Gas & Electric issuing precautionary power outages.

Those outages had 19,000 people without power, including in the region the blaze was burning, as of noon Friday.

Fire crews planned to stay in Ramona "through the night and well into (Saturday)," a deputy fire chief said.

No injuries were reported, according to Cal Fire.

“We were lucky today," said Cal Fire's Deputy Chief Nick Schuler. "But part of that luck is because we were prepared."

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