Brushfire burns 3,000 acres near Camp Pendleton; prompts evacuations

A San Diego Sheriff's fire and rescue helicopter drops water in an effort to extinguish the Creek Fire on Camp Pendleton, Calif., on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020. Camp Pendleton Fire Department and Cal Fire San Diego are in a unified command to battle the 3,000 acre fire.


By ALEX RIGGINS | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: December 24, 2020

FALLBROOK, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — A wildfire erupted late Wednesday night near the northern San Diego County community of Fallbrook and quickly charred at least 50 acres as it spread to Camp Pendleton, prompting mandatory evacuations from parts of the Marine Corps base, authorities said.

The blaze broke out around 11:15 p.m. near De Luz Road about two miles west of Sandia Creek Drive, according to San Diego County sheriff’s Lt. Mark Moreno and the North County Fire Protection District.

By 11:40 p.m., the flames had spread onto the nearby Marine Corps base, according to the fire agency. Though the blaze was initially reported at 300 acres, estimates later put it closer to between 50 and 100 acres.

Cal Fire San Diego tweeted that about 50 acres aboard Camp Pendleton had burned. The agency warned to “stay alert for updates and if you feel threatened, evacuate early.”

A little after 1 a.m. Thursday, mandatory evacuations were underway for those in the DeLuz Family Housing and Lake O’Neill campground areas aboard Camp Pendleton, according to a North County Fire Protection District official.

Mandatory evacuations were also ordered after 1 a.m. for residents along De Luz Road in the area of the blaze, fire officials tweeted.

In a pair of tweets, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said deputies were going door-to-door making notifications to residents living along Patton Oaks Road, Shady Lane, Darla Lane and a portion of Main Avenue.

A map shared by fire officials also included mandatory evacuations for some residents on West Dougherty Street and Ceramic Lane.

Alerts sent to the phones of some north San Diego County residents informed them that Fallbrook High School — at 2400 Stage Coach Lane — would be the temporary evacuation point. An initial message directed residents to “evac to the east.” A follow-up message was categorized as an evacuation warning and told its recipients to “prepare to evac if requested.”

Firefighters from Cal Fire, North County Fire Protection District and Camp Pendleton were all responding to the blaze along with sheriff’s deputies, according to the agencies.

The California Highway Patrol reported a likely long-term closure of De Luz Road.

The so-called “Creek fire” broke out amid the county’s 12th Santa Ana wind event of the season and a red-flag fire warning issued by the National Weather Service that went into effect Wednesday morning. The fire warning was expected to expire around noon on Christmas Eve as the forecast called for the Santa Ana winds to fade.

Shortly after the fire broke out, the National Weather Service’s San Diego office tweeted that conditions near the fire included 9% relative humidity and 12 mph northeast winds, with gusts up to 25 or 30 mph.

By 1 a.m. Thursday, the agency was reporting winds gusting to around 35 mph, with single-digit humidity.

“We expect wind strength to remain similar over the next 3-4 hours, weakening after sunrise with gusts generally less than 20 mph,” the agency tweeted.

There was no immediate information as to what caused the blaze.

As a preemptive measure to help avoid sparking wildfires during the red-flag fire warning, San Diego Gas & Electric shut off power to more than 5,900 customers throughout the day Wednesday and as of early Thursday morning. The utility had warned about 31,000 customers that they might be subject to the precautionary power shutoffs.

Those without power early Thursday due to the preemptive electricity cuts included residents in parts of San Diego County communities of Alpine, Campo, Descanso, El Cajon, Potrero, Valley Center and the Sycuan reservation.

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A fire burns early Thursday morning in northern San Diego County. It forced evacuations from parts of Camp Pendleton.