House fire in Pala spreads to brush, burns 45 acres

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PALA, Calif. -- The smoldering site of a wildfire that gutted a home and some abandoned sheds while blackening swaths of brushy terrain in the far northern reaches of San Diego County was nearly halfway contained late this afternoon.

The 45-acre blaze began as a house fire in the 38800 block of Pala Temecula Road shortly after 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to Cal Fire. The flames quickly spread into adjacent trees and brush and began moving over hilly land east of Interstate 15 and about a mile south of the Riverside County line.

Sheriff's deputies cleared 100 or so people from nearby residences in the area of Temepa Road and advised them to wait out the emergency in makeshift shelters at Vallecitos Elementary School in Fallbrook and Great Oak High School in Temecula.

The fire grew over the next several hours before ground crews and personnel aboard air tankers and water-dropping helicopters were able to halt its spread. By then, the blaze had gutted seven outbuildings along with the home in which it had originated, Cal Fire Capt. Issac Sanchez said.

The small auxiliary structures, which stood on remote county-owned land, apparently had been unused for years or decades, Sanchez said.

The evacuated residents were allowed to return to their homes about four hours after being directed to vacate.

Three firefighters suffered minor burns while working to extinguish the blaze.

As of 5:30 p.m., crews had the burn area roughly 45 percent surrounded, according to Sanchez. They planned to work through the night to get a full line of containment around the charred acreage and put out all remaining hot spots, he said.

About 200 personnel from San Diego and Riverside counties have been fighting the fire, with help from a team with the Orange County Fire Authority.

The cause remained under investigation early Wednesday night.

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