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Valley Fire explodes to hundreds of acres in Japatul Valley, forcing evacuations

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Posted at 3:23 PM, Sep 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-06 13:12:21-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A brush fire in the Japatul Valley area exploded in size in about an hour on Saturday, forcing nearby residents to evacuate.

The Valley Fire ignited off Spirit Trail and Japatul Road, just southeast of Alpine, just before 2:50 p.m., according to Cleveland National Forest. The fire had scorched about 1,500 acres and was 0% contained as of 5:50 p.m.

Fire officials said the dangerous rate of spread was pushing the fire southwest toward Lawson Valley.

According to Cal Fire Cpt. Kendal Bortisser says the intense heat and rugged topography of the area are also posing a challenge for crews. Bortisser added that hand crews, bulldozers, and engines are going to be relied upon throughout the night since aircraft cannot fly overnight.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Valley Fire erupts in Japatul Valley area

The fire threatened the community of Carveacre, forcing an evacuation order for Carveacre Rd. at Japatul Valley Rd., CNF said.

Cal Fire confirmed that structures had been destroyed and damaged, but did not specify how many, as of 10:40 p.m. No firefighters had been injured, Cal Fire added.

Evacuation centers have been established at Steele Canyon High School at 12440 Campo Road, Spring Valley, or Joan MacQueen Middle School at 2001 Tavern Road, Alpine. San Diego Humane society says an emergency response team has been sent to the area to assist in evacuating any pets or large animals.

A smoke advisory was issued by the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District. The agency said smoke from the Valley Fire was impacting several parts of the county, particularly in the north. If anyone smells smoke, it's advised that they limit their activity outdoors.

"Much of the smoke is high above ground level and can be seen throughout the northern half of San Diego County, but is not necessarily affecting people on the ground. However, in areas impacted by the smoke, fine particulates, or PM2.5 concentrations, may reach unhealthful levels," the agency said.

Power outages were expected in the area surrounding the fire. SDG&E said about 1,000 customers were without power as a result of the fire, as of 5:15 p.m. SDG&E had incorrectly reported that about 12,700 customers were without power earlier.

"The fire is impacting SDG&E equipment in the vicinity of the fire. SDG&E has activated its Emergency Operations Center and is closely monitoring the fire," the company tweeted.


CAL FIRE San Diego crews were assisting in firefighting efforts. Multiple air and ground resources were at the scene and on the way, CNF added. SDG&E's Sky Maverick helicopter was involved in numerous water drops to help extinguish the flames.

San Diego Fire Department also said their crews would be helping on the ground and they would likely deploy a helicopter for night drops.

The Valley Fire comes as San Diego County's valleys and mountains are under a red flag warning from 10 a.m. Saturday through 6 p.m. Sunday. The National Weather Service says winds could top out around 15 to 20 miles per hour with gusts as high as 25 to 35 miles per hour in the region.

In addition to the winds threatening to spread a fire quickly, temperatures could hit as high as 122 in some parts of the county and 99 at the coast during the weekend heat wave.