"Battle Isn't Over" As San Diego Brush Fire Threatens Thousands

Cal Fire: Anyone living in proximity of the Bernardo Fire should be on high alert

By R. Stickney, Sherene Tagharobi and Greg Bledsoe
|  Wednesday, May 14, 2014  |  Updated 4:11 PM PDT
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Cal Fire Incident Commander Ray Chaney describes weather conditions surrounding the Bernardo Fire in San Diego's North County. The weather forecast has firefighter gravely concerned.

Cal Fire Incident Commander Ray Chaney describes weather conditions surrounding the Bernardo Fire in San Diego's North County. The weather forecast has firefighter gravely concerned.

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Long Day of Work Ahead of Fire Crews

NBC 7's Greg Bledsoe takes a look at conditions on the ground of the Bernardo Fire and talks about what crews will be focusing on today.
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A menacing brush fire that slithered through San Diego's most exclusive North County communities flirting with disaster and threatening homes, still posed a threat to thousands of residents Wednesday.

As of 8:30 a.m., the brush fire had scorched 1,584 acres of canyons and undeveloped space around neighborhoods of multi-million dollar homes and mansions. While no structures have burned so far, Cal Fire officials warned residents that anyone living in the proximity of the Bernardo Fire should be on high alert.

“The wind is coming up again. We know how difficult, how windy and how hot it’s going to be,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

“The battle isn’t over,” he added, urging everyone to be vigilant and listen for updates.

San Diego Fire-Rescue updated the containment to 25 percent early Wednesday, though the blaze could spread in the face of high winds and record temperatures expected.

"Weather conditions right now give us grave concern," said Cal Fire's Incident Commander Ray Chaney. "We're talking single digit humidties, gusty Santa Ana winds. So, it does put us on edge and that's why we have a robust force of engine companies and air assets on the line today."

"We are prepared for the worst and hoping for the best," Chaney said.

There were 12 flare-ups overnight and more were expected Wednesday fueled by the wind.

Just before 9 a.m. an NBC 7 news crew called 911 to report a flare-up along San Dieguito Road at Camino del Sur. The fire burned just a few feet of brush before crews quickly extinguished the flames.

San Diego police officers will be using 211, their Twitter feed and reverse 911 system to spread news of evacuations.

“We ask again that you follow those directions and we will give you the information on where we want you to evacuate,” San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said.

San Diego County Sheriff's deputies made 22,000 contacts to email addresses, cell phones and landlines through their alert system Tuesday. Of those, 5,000 were in the county and 17,000 in the San Diego city area.

Santaluz resident Kara Hansen was getting her hair done when she got a call about the fire. She had time to grab only her family's passports and dogs before leaving to find her 8-year-old son, whose school had been evacuated.

“Anybody who comes out here and drives around Santaluz to see how close it got to homes, it’s unbelievable,” she said.

In additon to fighting the flames, officials are working to ensure areas the blaze has already crossed pose no ongoing danger. Blackened dirt may look safe however firefighters say there may be hot spots beneath. Fire crews will be working to dig the dirt up to look for embers that may be buried up to two inches deep.

Firefighters will be churning the dirt and wetting the dirt down. If winds pick up the dust and dirt, embers can be spread to another area and spark another fire.

“There are a few little areas down along the river bottom that didn’t burn real clean because it’s still a little moist there,” said Barona Fire Chief Ken Kremensky.

Several minor injuries have been reported.  The cause was still under investigation.

A high wind warning is in effect for the mountains, foothills and valleys.

“It’s almost the exact same winds you saw yesterday,” NBC 7’s Meteorologist Jodi Kodesh said.

The soft breeze is going to pick up to 25 mph winds on average with gusts possibly reaching 50 mph in some of the valleys around the county, Kodesh said.

Temperatures are expected to range from the 90s along the coast to triple digits inland.

“Everyone should be cautious still,” said Capt. Jay Hausman with the San Bernardo County Fire Department. “It doesn’t take much to push something around.”

“Just because of the conditions that are out there now, I think everybody needs to be a little bit more alert as to what they’re doing and what they’re seeing out there.”

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