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Homeless encampment has close call in Mission Valley brush fire

Posted at 7:19 PM, Nov 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-11 22:29:10-05

SAN DIEGO - A fast-moving brush fire that lit up the early evening sky in Mission Valley Thursday may have been started by a person, according to fire investigators.

The fire broke out at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday in an area near the 3100 block of Camino Del Rio. There was some concern that flames could reach neighboring businesses, but firefighters kept it contained to heavy brush.

Crews were able to stop the spread of the fire at just under two acres burned.

A woman who calls the riverbed home told 10News how close the flames came to where she is living.

"The media was saying it was just a small brush fire. For a lot of us down there, it's our lives, you know?" said Mary Esther. "The fire came right up to the back of our tent and there's embers burning holes on the tent, but we were lucky."

The cause was labeled incendiary, meaning it was set by human hands. Whether it was caused by a discarded cigarette, a campfire that got out of control, or arson, is still not known.

The underbrush is heavy, as there are lots of trees, as well as a homeless encampment, including trash and debris. It's a tinder box in the heart of San Diego.

Deputy San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Steve Ricci told 10News, "We've had a number of fires down there. It's a very difficult area to manage because it's San Diego city property, but we can't go down and do pruning, bulldozing, or anything like that."

Both Copter One and Copter Two made water drops -- unusual at night because of the dangers from power lines, so the drops had to be approved first.

Esther said she and many others had been living on the street downtown across from the Central Library.

"When the guy started killing people downtown, we started getting very uncomfortable. When July hit, All-Star Game, Comic-Con, everything, they kept trying to move us back toward Logan Heights, and the farther back you got, the more dangerous it got because of drugs, lot of things so we decided we were getting out of there," Esther said.

No one was injured in that brush fire.