More than 200 cars burned, 1 home damaged in South Bay wrecking yard fire

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SAN DIEGO — A fire that broke out at an auto wrecking yard in the South Bay Saturday afternoon caused some residences to be evacuated, burned more than 200 cars and damaged one home as firefighters extinguish residual fire to prevent further spread.

Fire crews battled the flames at 1950 Cactus Road, south of state Route 905. The blaze started near two businesses; an auto repair shop and a vehicle storage facility, according to the SDFD.

San Diego Fire-Rescue reported the blaze, dubbed the “Cactus Fire,” to the public around 12:30 p.m., though it wasn’t clear exactly when and how the flames started.

At a briefing around 3:30 p.m., David Gerboth, Deputy Fire Chief for SDFD, announced the fire was no longer active and had burned more than 200 cars as well as a home. No injuries were reported.

The SDFD also confirmed 20 people were evacuated, as crews protected nearby structures. There were a few spot fires that caught brush on fire, but those were put out.

“The wind typically kicks up in the afternoon down in South Bay and today was no exception,” the SDFD said in a statement. “The wind is definitely not cooperating.”

An SDFD helicopter had to be used to make water drops onto the yard because the fire was so difficult to put out, according to fire officials. About 130 personnel worked on the blaze.

The fire department initially said area businesses had been told to pack up for the day and evacuate, though San Diego police told FOX 5 around 1:15 p.m. that not everyone was complying.

To the east and west, the lot is bordered in part by large open fields. On emergency scanners, crews could be heard discussing the need to keep flames from spreading into brush.

“A couple of vegetation fires that started near the yard have been put out,” SDFD said on Twitter. “Multiple firefighters are working on putting out the main fire.”

By 1:30 p.m., the emergency response was major, with about 70 personnel, at least six fire engines, two helicopters, two trucks and four water tenders (tanker-style vehicles designed to carry large quantities of water) involved. A hazmat crew and medics were also on scene.

Chula Vista Fire Department and Cal Fire San Diego sent resources to help the SDFD crews. “Smoke is visible throughout much of SD County,” Cal Fire wrote on Twitter. A photo from the Coronado Bridge provided perspective on how much smoke was in the air:

Smoke rising from an auto wrecking yard in Otay Mesa, as seen from the Coronado Bridge on Oct. 16, 2021.

The SDFD announced firefighters would remain on the fire overnight to prevent flare ups. Heavy equipment will be used to move stacked cars and containers to extinguish smoldering debris.

Cactus Road, from Siempre Viva to the end of the road, and Airway Road, from Cactus to Brittania, will remain closed until Sunday, fire officials added.

FOX 5’s Domenick Candelieri contributed to this report.

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