The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

San Diego County calls off evacuation orders for all 20,000 homes in wildfire danger

  • Print
Billowing smoke rises from flames as firefighters begin the trek up the hills to battle a wild fire, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires destroyed a home and forced the evacuation of several others Tuesday in California as a high-pressure system brought unseasonable heat and gusty winds to a parched state that should be in the middle of its rainy season. (AP Photo)

Enlarge Image

Billowing smoke rises from flames as firefighters begin the trek up the hills to battle a wild fire, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires destroyed a home and forced the evacuation of several others Tuesday in California as a high-pressure system brought unseasonable heat and gusty winds to a parched state that should be in the middle of its rainy season. (AP Photo)

SAN DIEGO - A wildfire that surged amid high heat and dry winds in drought conditions brought evacuation orders for more than 20,000 homes in and around San Diego, but all residents were told they could return home Tuesday night just a few hours later as cooler, calmer darkness fell.

Another fire 250 miles to the north in Santa Barbara County was also lying down after dark. All but a handful of the evacuation orders that had affected some 1,200 homes and businesses earlier in the day were called off.

No damaged homes or injuries were reported in either fire.

But the rugged terrain and unseasonably warm temperatures made firefighting difficult, creating some scary moments.

"At the point the fire is right now, we believe we have a pretty good handle on it," San Diego Fire Chief Javier Mainar said. "We hope to do some more work through the night and into tomorrow, but I think the largest part of the emergency has passed."

The flames that erupted in the fire-prone Rancho Bernardo area of San Diego quickly grew to 700 acres, driven by hot, dry Santa Ana winds.

By late afternoon, the flames ripped through canyons to approach expensive homes and new subdivisions on the ridges. It spread to Rancho Santa Fe, one of the nation's wealthiest communities, known for its multimillion-dollar homes, golfing and horseback riding.

Black and grey smoke billowed over northern San Diego, filled with whirling ash and embers that created small spot fires. Flames crept within yards of some homes before firefighters doused them.

On one road, people on bicycles and skateboards stopped to watch as a plane dumped water on flames a half-mile away. At least two high schools and three elementary schools were evacuated.

Cameron Stout, filling his tank at a gas station, got a text from his wife shortly after noon saying that she was packing up and leaving with the family's pictures, laptops and other valuables. Their next-door neighbour's home burned in a fire 15 years ago, he said.

"This area's been through this before," he said. "I thought the recent rains would have prevented this from happening. But after a couple days of 100 degrees, it's reversed all that."

Katy Ghasemi, 14, was held for hours in her high school classroom before the school let the children go home. Students studied, ate lunch, did yoga and looked out the windows at the fire.

"There were a lot of flames. Some were right near the front gate," she said.

The city of San Diego issued between 16,000 and 17,000 evacuation orders, according to San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore, including 300 that Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman described as mandatory. Gore said the sheriff's department issued an additional 5,000 evacuation orders outside city limits.

As night fell the evacuations were called off for city residents, and all county residents were told they could safely return by about 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, in the Santa Barbara County community of Lompoc, the wildfire there also grew to about 700 acres.

There were downed power lines and heavy brush in the area, said David Sadecki of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Chrissy Cabral, 57, rounded up friends to help her remove 19 head of cattle she keeps at a local ranch after the fire shifted directions. She said firefighters warned her: "Get out now."

"I was probably half a mile away from the side of it, but unfortunately for me ... the winds twisted and blew it back on top of me," she said.

"It was very high flames, very dark," she added.

The group used trailers to move the cows five miles away, a repeat of 10 years ago when a fire roared through the area and burned her corral, Cabral said.

Months of drought have left much of the landscape ready to burn. Downtown Los Angeles has recorded just 6.08 inches of precipitation with little time left in the July 1-June 30 rain year. That's less than half its annual average rainfall.

"Fire season last year never really ended in Southern California," said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. His agency has responded to more than 1,350 fires since Jan. 1, compared with an average of 700 by this time of year.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Cheap summer weekends

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • July 1, 2012 - 120701  -   Canada Day fireworks at The Forks from the Norwood Bridge Sunday, July 1, 2012.    John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press
  • MIKE APORIUS/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS BUSINESS - cow on farm owned by cattle farmer Lloyd Buchanan near Argyle Wednesday afternoon -see Larry Kusch's story  January 04/2006

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should Manitoba support the transport of nuclear waste through the province?

View Results

Ads by Google