Full containment of Lilac Fire in San Diego's North County draws near

Posted at 8:17 AM, Dec 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-13 13:04:31-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Crews are inching closer to full containment of the Lilac Fire, which destroyed numerous structures and forced thousands to evacuate in San Diego's North County.

The fire erupted Dec. 7 at about 11:20 a.m. near Interstate 15 in the Bonsall area, and it quickly spread thanks to high Santa Ana wind conditions. By 8 p.m. that night, the fire had made its way from the Fallbrook area into Oceanside, charring over 4,000 acres and burning several homes in the process.

The Lilac Fire also forced thousands of residents -- some with pets/livestock -- from their homes and into several evacuation shelters established by the American Red Cross and county.

Firefighters, aided by weakening wind speeds, were able to hold the fire to 4,100 acres burned over the weekend and have since gained the upper hand on the blaze.

The progress allowed officials to lift all evacuation orders and road closures associated with the fire.



Acres & containment: Fire holding at 4,100 acres, 95% contained as of 7 a.m. Dec. 13. Full containment expected by Dec. 21.

Injuries: At least six injuries reported. Three citizens suffered non-life threatening burn injuries, while another was treated for smoke inhalation. Meanwhile, one firefighter suffered a dislocated shoulder but reset his arm and continued to work. Another firefighter was hospitalized for smoke inhalation.

Damages: 157 structures destroyed, 64 damaged.

Evacuations: All evacuation orders have been lifted

Power outages: Click here for SDG&E's Outage Map

Personnel: 779 total personnel are assisting.

Equipment: 61 fire engines, 3 helicopters, 1 water tenders, 19 hand crews.

Going home after an evacuation | Recovery assistance for fire victims

Despite the progress, officials don't expect to have the Lilac Fire fully contained until Dec. 21, which would mark exactly two weeks since it erupted for unknown reasons.

Cal Fire officials said responsibility for the fire will transition Wednesday from an incident management team -- made up of Cal Fire, the North County Fire District and the Vista and Oceanside fire departments -- to the local Cal Fire San Diego unit. As that transition was set to get underway, officials were thinning the ranks of fire crews assigned to the incident.

Most of the firefighters still assigned to the incident were hand crews digging a perimeter of containment around the smoldering burn zone near Camp Pendleton.

Before authorities can declare a blaze fully contained, hand crews must dig down to bare soil around the burn area, ensuring there is no fuel if hot spots flare up.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Henry Herrera said many of the Cal Fire crews that battled the Lilac Fire will now be sent to Ventura County to help fight the Thomas Fire, which broke out last Monday and has scorched more than 237,000 acres.

The 2003 Cedar Fire in San Diego County still holds the record as the state's largest wildfire at 273,246 acres burned. The 2007 Witch Fire and 1970 Laguna Fire, both in San Diego County, are also among the 10 largest in California history.