FIRES TO MERGE OVERNIGHT: EVACUATIONS IN RANCHITA AND SAN FELIPE AREAS AMID "EXTREME" FIRE CONDITIONS

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By Miriam Raftery

Update 11:15 p.m. -- Scanner traffic indicates fire jumped Grapevine Canyon. S-2 is closed.  A new evacuation site for large animals for Ranchita residents is established at Creek Hollow Ranch in Ramona, 25279 Creek Hollow Drive, per the County emergency website. (Love Ranch, named in an earlier post, is NOT being used for large animal evacuations.)

By Miriam Raftery

August 14, 2012 (San Diego's East County) 9 p.m. -- Multiple fires in the Vallecito Lightning Complex have scorched 5,925 acres, with only 10% contained, Cal Fire's Roxanne Provaznik reports.  Firefighters have 22.7 miles of containment line to construct.

A mandatory evacuation has been ordered for Ranchita and the San Felipe area off Hwy 78. An evacuation center is set up at the Warner Springs High School. Hard road closures are in place for San Felipe and Montezuma Road, County Highway S22 and Palm Canyon Drive. Evacuations of Ranchita and homes adjacent to S22.

The Wilson and Stewart Fires are expected to merge overnight. Further incident expansion is expected as thunderstorm winds and diurnal nighttime fire spread continues. Extreme terrain, continuous fuels without recent fire history are causing extreme fire behavior. Fires are difficult to access and most of suppression requires substantial hand crew work.

"This evening the wind is actually very favorable. There will be no more evacuations," Cal Fire's Mike Mohler told East County Magazine. "Today we had huge buildup over fire; no precipitation, no lightning; did create crazy conditions with downdrafts for our firefighters."

The Wilson Fire is 3,600 acres and is 5% contained.  The Stewart Fire is 1,800 acres and is 0% contained. The Vallecito Fire is 519 acres and is 100% contained.  Two small fires, each 3 acres, are also 100% contained: the Cooper and Wynola fires. 

There have been two injuries to firefighters. Over 700 firefighters are battling the blazes, including 31 fire crews, 55 engines, 5 helicopters, 4 bulldozers, 28 water tenders, 3 airtankers, and 150 overhead. 

The estimated cost to date to suppress the fire is $1,949,389.

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