Rural East County fire grows to 2,900 acres as wind gusts fan flames

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SAN DIEGO — A wind-fueled wildfire in rural East County grew to 2,900 acres overnight and remained 0% contained, Cal Fire San Diego said Sunday morning.

The blaze, which officials named the Southern Fire, broke out Saturday and forced about 500 people to evacuate in the small community of Shelter Valley, east of Julian. At least three buildings have been destroyed by the flames.

A temporary evacuation point was set up with help from the Red Cross at the Agua Caliente Campgrounds, located at 39545 Great Southern Overland.

Gusty conditions contributed to the fire’s growth overnight, forecasters said. The blaze was last reported at 1,200 acres Saturday evening. The growth by Sunday morning was due in part to “strong winds of 40-60 mph overnight,” Cal Fire said.

Very early Sunday morning, National Weather Service San Diego said it was monitoring a “significant flare-up” on the fire’s southern flank.

“Winds remain strong across the desert slopes, with ridgetop gusts 35-45 mph,” the agency wrote on Twitter just before 2 a.m. “Some weakening likely overnight, but stronger after daybreak.”

“Strong west winds will continue to impact the desert slopes and passes through this evening, including in the area of the (Southern Fire),” NWS wrote in a 5:30 a.m. update. “Winds will be most widespread this PM, affecting large part of the Coachella Valley. Watch for areas of blowing dust.”

Animals evacuated due to the blaze can be sheltered at Vallecito County Park, on Great Southern Overland Stage Route of 1849 in Julian. The San Diego Humane Society said they worked into the night helping the county’s Department of Animal Services with evacuations, rescuing rabbits, goats, a donkey, horses and chickens.

People who still need help with animal evacuations can call Animal Services at 619-236-2341.

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