30-acre East County wildfire fully contained


RANCHO SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Firefighters working to douse remaining hot spots at the site of a wind-whipped brush fire that destroyed one home and damaged six others in a neighborhood near El Cajon had the 30-acre burn area fully contained early Thursday evening.

The non-injury blaze dubbed the Willow Fire erupted for unknown reasons next to a home in the 2800 block of Willow Glen Drive in Rancho San Diego about 10 p.m. Wednesday, according to Cal Fire.

Driven by strong, arid Santa Ana winds, the flames raced up to the top of an adjacent hill, where they gutted a residence and damaged six others, said Cal Fire Capt. Thomas Shoots.

Residents in neighboring communities were evacuated as the blaze broke out just after 10 p.m. Wednesday in the 2500 block of Wind River Road, but all evacuation orders were lifted around 4 a.m. after crews had started to get a handle on the blaze.

Firefighters had the spread of the blaze halted by shortly before 1:30 a.m. Thursday.

Despite the dry, gusty conditions, the personnel were able to get a handle on the fire because it was “boxed in” by residential streets, Shoots said.

The cause of the blaze was under investigation.

“This is significant,” Shoots told FOX 5 late Wednesday. “Any time these fires kick off, we know the wind conditions out there are gonna make it super challenging for us and our firefighters.”

An evacuation order was originally issued for residents living in the area, the sheriff’s department said. Residents were being told to evacuate to the McGrath Family YMCA on Campo Road next to the Regal Edwards Rancho San Diego Cinemas.

Deputies also were going door to door to get people to leave their homes.

The Willow Fire burns in East County on Dec. 2, 2020. (Photo: San Diego filmmaker Dustin Kahia)

“Start packing your essentials and get ready to leave,” the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said in a tweet. “When told to evacuate, leave immediately.”

By 4:15 a.m., the American Red Cross said they were moving out of the area with evacuations lifted. The organization thanked its volunteers.

In Rancho San Diego, Willow Glen Road was closed overnight between Jamacha Road and Hillsdale Road; and Brabham Street was closed between Jamacha Road and Windriver Road. Officials with San Diego County DPW announced those closures were lifted as of shortly before 6 a.m.

The only remaining road closure was Willow Glen Drive between Hillsdale Road and Steele Canyon Road, the sheriff’s department said on Twitter.

Capt. Shoots said Wednesday night that with the potential for the fire to spread 200-plus acres, firefighters exhausted all ground resources to put it out. Helicopters also were seen dumping water over the blaze.

“We’re really taking this serious and throwing as many resources as we can at it because we know what the potential is,” Shoots said.

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