POTRERO, Calif. -- A wildfire that erupted near the U.S.-Mexico border and prompted authorities to evacuate the entire community of Potrero has now burned 7,500 acres and was only 5 percent contained early Monday evening.
The blaze ignited late Sunday morning in the vicinity of state Routes 94 and 188 amid an excessive heat warning. The fire spread to about 7,500 acres by 6 p.m. Monday, according to Cal Fire. Authorities shut down state Route 94 in the area.
Evacuation orders remained in place for Potrero Monday. Classes at Mountain Empire Unified School District campuses were canceled Monday due to the fire, district officials said.
At last report, Cal Fire spokesman Capt. Kendal Bortisser confirmed at least four outbuildings had been destroyed, but that number could increase. One resident told 10News he returned to his neighborhood to find his home a pile of simmering rubble.
Three firefighters sustained heat-related injuries, but are expected to be OK, Bortisser said.
Law enforcement officers evacuated residents and ranchers from Potrero as the fire spread north of the Tecate Junction. An overnight shelter was opened at Campo Elementary School on Buckman Springs Road. Those who had evacuated to temporary shelter locations at the Campo and Dulzura community centers were later sent to Campo Elementary, located at 1654 Buckman Springs Rd.
Fourty four people spent Sunday night at the school, with more sleeping in their vehicles or right outside with their pets.
The blaze also caused a power outage that affected nearly 200 homes and businesses in Potrero and in the nearby communities of Campo and Dulzura, according to San Diego Gas & Electric. Electrical service is expected to be restored by 6 p.m. Monday.
Services for those impacted by the fire include a place to stay, food, hydration, comfort kits with personal hygiene items, emotional support and health services, according to the Red Cross.
Those with animals are asked to contact San Diego Animal Services at 619-236-2341. Those with horses could take them to Circle T Ranch in Descanso.
On Monday afternoon, Cal Fire said evacuation orders were issued for the Forest Gate, Star Ranch, Cowboy Ranch, Dog Patch and Canyon City areas. An evacuation advisory was issued for Lake Morena.
Naval Base Coronado officials said two of its installations, Camp Michael Monsoor and Camp Moreno, have also been evacuated due to the blaze.
Late Monday afternoon, Cal Fire officials said a new evacuation site would be established at Los Coches Creek Middle School (9669 Dunbar Lane), off I-8 between Alpine and Lakeside, in El Cajon. The previous evacuation point at Golden Acorn is being considered a temporary site.
ABOUT THE FIRE
The blaze ignited in the vicinity of state Routes 94 and 188 amid an excessive heat warning. Authorities have shut down SR-94 in the area from SR-188 to Potrero Valley Road. No traffic was allowed on Route 188 between the border and Route 94.
Bortisser said more than 250 crew members were dispatched to battle the blaze. Along with Cal Fire, crews from El Cajon and U.S. Navy were called out.
"Firefighters are battling the conditions that we were hoping wouldn't happen this summer," Capt. Bortisser said. "They're battling the extreme heat, the low humidity, vegetation that's very old, it's dead as a result of this multi-year drought, in addition to the steep terrain."
Monday was expected to be the hottest day of the week. An Excessive Heat Warning will remain in effect through 8 p.m. 10News launched a Breaking Weather Alert in advance of the heat wave and will continue the alert through early this week.