Gate Fire: Evacuation orders lifted in fire area, criminal investigation underway

Posted at 6:27 AM, May 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-23 00:55:45-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - As crews continue to battle the Gate Fire in the Dulzura area, all evacuation orders and warnings for the fire area were lifted Monday, according to Cal Fire.

Cal Fire said the fire, which erupted Saturday morning just south of state Route 94 near Otay Lakes Road, has burned 2,056 acres and is 75 percent contained as of Monday morning.

"Overnight temperatures and a rise in humidity allowed firefighters to make meaningful progress toward complete containment," according to Cal Fire.

Cal Fire said Otay Lakes Road was open to all traffic, and closures along SR-94 were lifted in the area of the fire but drivers are urged to use caution.

RELATED: 'Gate Fire' sparks near SR-94

No structures were destroyed and no injuries directly from the fire were reported, but a Chula Vista police officer was seriously injured while directing traffic at a street closure near Otay Lakes Saturday afternoon.

A criminal investigation was launched after a video surfaced on Instagram that appeared to show a group of people starting a fire in the area. Cal Fire Capt. Isaac Sanchez said Sunday that the person who posted the video is cooperating with authorities.

Many residents in the area are blaming the fire on a nearby shooting range. They say the range is something they have been complaining about for a while.

Resident Yvonne Reese said, "[We] tried to explain to them that it was dangerous to keep allowing people to shoot there … they basically yawned in our faces."

Residents said the shooting range does not have fire extinguishers.

The fire forced the evacuation of the Thousand Trails Pio Pico Campground on Otay Lakes Road. Most of those affected were evacuated to Otay Ranch High School in Chula Vista.

The Dulzura and Engineer Springs areas were also evacuated.

With the evacuations lifted, Red Cross officials closed the shelter at Otay Ranch High at 12 p.m.

Red Cross officials said anyone who needs recovery assistance should contact American Red Cross Disaster Dispatch at 855-891-7325.

The San Diego Humane Society activated its Special Response Team Saturday night to establish a shelter with the San Diego Red Cross. They took in four dogs and two cats at the time and continued to work until today. 

"I'm happy to report our Emergency Sheltering Operations for the Gate Fire have closed as the campground we were supporting has been reopened and families have been able to return," said chief operations officer Jennifer Brehler.

The Humane Society is expected to release its final count of animals assisted later today.  

RELATED: 'Gate Fire' evacuees recall escaping flames, black smoke

The blaze was dubbed the Gate Fire because of its proximity to a landmark pink gate along the highway that leads to an access road, said Sanchez.