SAN DIEGO — The Valley Fire grew to 17,345 acres Monday, a 7,000-acre jump in less than 12 hours. It was 3% contained as of Cal Fire’s evening update.
Cal Fire said the fire continued to spread quickly Monday as it burned toward communication towers at Mt. Pinos and Corte Madera. Extremely hot and dry weather continued to make conditions difficult as more than 400 firefighters battled the flames.
Firefighters are expecting more challenges Tuesday when Santa Ana winds could bring 40-50 mph gusts through Wednesday. They said the winds pose the potential for extreme fire behavior and rapid rates of spread.
“That’s always a game changer for us when they come in. We’ve seen that evident in the past several years whether that be the Cedar Fire, the Lilac Fire, the May wildfires of 2013. Santa Ana is always a significant factor in that so that’s the real concern tonight,” Cal Fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser told FOX 5.
Cal Fire plans to hold a news conference Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. to give an update on the status of the fire.
Cal Fire said 424 firefighters worked to get control of the flames with 56 engines, 14 helicopters, 8 air tankers, 7 water tenders, 6 bulldozers and 121 overhead personnel.
The wildfire prompted school closures and new evacuation orders as it continued to burn in the Japatul Valley area near Alpine.
A new evacuation order was issued for the Corte Madera area south of Pine Valley. The mandate followed Monday morning evacuation orders for the Corral Canyon off-road area, Bobcat Meadow and Los Pinos.
The San Diego Foundation announced a disaster fund has been established to help families affected by the Valley Fire. Click here for more information.
Monday was the third day of scorching heat firefighters faced as they continued the battle against the fast-moving wildfire that started Saturday. The National Weather Service in San Diego issued a Red Flag Warning that will take effect noon Tuesday until 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Cal Fire said Monday that the fire was burning in the Lawson Valley and Carveacre areas and had destroyed 11 homes. An additional 25 outbuildings burned as the fire continued to threaten Loveland Reservoir and the surrounding water shed.
Cal Fire said Monday it would start using military aircraft on the fire, exercising the department’s agreement with the Navy Third Fleet and the First Marine Expeditionary Force. This adds an additional six helicopters to the firefight.
Two people suffered injuries or illness, fire officials said Sunday, but did not provide information about their conditions.
San Diego Gas & Electric reported power outages affecting several thousand customers in the fire area. Officials also reported that there was an immediate threat to Sunrise Power 500 KV power lines, which supply a large portion of San Diego County’s electricity.
An evacuation order was issued shortly before 3 p.m. Monday for the Corte Madera area, south of Pine Valley. Around 11 a.m., an evacuation order was issued for the areas of Corral Canyon off-road area, Bobcat Meadow and Los Pinos.
An evacuation order remained in place for the community of Carveacre and Barrett Lake Dam. Evacuation warnings were still in place for Lake Morena, Dulzura, Dog Patch, Potrero, Campo, Honey Springs, Barrett Junction, Dearhorn Valley, Corte Madera, Pine Valley and the area from Lyons/Japatul Road to Interstate 8.
An evacuation warning is voluntary but everyone should prepare to evacuate if an order is issued.
Residents were gathering at Steele Canyon High School, 12440 Campo Road in Spring Valley, and Joan MacQueen Middle School, 2001 Tavern Road in Alpine, which reopened later Sunday afternoon after briefly closing down for lack of demand. The evacuation centers were set up by the American Red Cross, which will supply water, snacks and other items. Pets were welcome.
The sheriff’s department said residents who need help keeping larger animals safe during evacuations could bring them to the County Animal Services South Shelter, located at 5821 Sweetwater Road in Bonita, and call San Diego Humane Society at 619-299-7012, then press 1 for more information.
The sheriff’s office shared an updated list of road closures Monday night:
- Lawson Valley Road at Skyline Truck Trail
- Skyline Truck Trail at Wisecarver Truck Trail
- Japatul Road at Japatul Valley Road at Lyons Valley
- Lyons Valley Road at Skyline Truck Trail at Honey Springs
- Japatul Road at Via Asoleado (also at Sequan Truck trail)
- No access onto Corrall Canyon from Buckman Springs
The Jamul-Dulzura Union School District announced Monday there will be no school Tuesday due to the fire.
The district comprises Jamul Elementary School, Oak Grove Middle School and Greater San Diego Academy.
Air quality concerns
The National Weather Service is warning for the potential for increasing smoke in the San Diego County area.
The county said as of Monday afternoon, air quality remained good in and near the coast and had improved in the inland valleys, where air quality was moderate.
While ground level smoke effects were minimal from the coast to the inland valleys, smoke continued to be widespread high above ground level over San Diego County.
The county said near and downwind of the fire, air quality can reach unhealthy levels. In areas of heavy smoke, assume that air quality levels are unhealthy for sensitive groups to unhealthy for all individuals. In areas with minor smoke impacts, assume that air quality levels range from moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups.
In areas where you smell smoke it is advised that you limit physical/outdoor activity. If possible, stay indoors to limit your exposure to fine particulate matter and ozone, especially those residents with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children.
Fire grew rapidly
The fire began about 3 p.m. off Spirit Trail and Japatul Road and was described early by Cal Fire officials as burning at a dangerous rate of spread and a medium threat to structures. It exploded quickly — growing about 500 acres in a single hour.
By evening, officials announced the blaze had grown to around 1,500 acres. Video from photojournalists on the front lines showed flames ripping through homes and other structures in the area.
“We do have confirmation that there have been homes, structures destroyed and damaged,” Capt. Kendal Bortisser with Cal Fire told FOX 5. When aircraft took off Sunday morning to survey the damage and rejoin the battle, Cal Fire released the 4,000-acre figure.
Plumes of smoke could be seen for miles around the county.
Just before 10 p.m. Saturday, the Orange County Fire Authority announced it had dispatched a “strike team” of five fire engines and two battalion chiefs to assist their southern brethren, joining crews from the Cleveland National Forest and Cal Fire.