San Diego fire update: Strong winds could flare-up Bernardo Fire Wednesday

SAN DIEGO - Near triple digit temperatures and strong Santa Ana winds Wednesday morning could cause problems for firefighters after crews rushed to take advantage of calmer winds overnight as they battled the massive wind-stoked Bernardo Fire that has charred at least 1,450 acres of brushy open land north of San Diego.

Although winds died down for firefighters overnight, the National Weather Service said more strong Santa Ana winds -- possibly up to 75 miles per hour in the most wind-prone areas -- were in store for today. The agency issued a red flag warning for strong winds, dry conditions and warm temperatures for the inland valleys and mountain areas until 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Meteorologist Robert Santos reports that the winds will continue to pick up throughout the morning and and mid afternoon for the coast and western valleys, with gusts up to 50 mph. The eastern valleys and mountains will experience gusts up to 65 mph, with isolated areas hitting 80 mph. The winds should die down by Wednesday night.

"We're predicting that we're going to be having the same kind of weather we had yesterday, we're going to be having the triple digit temperatures today," Cal Fire spokesman Capt. Kendal Bortisser told Scripps sister station 10News Wednesday morning. "The wind is supposed to come back again this morning, in addition to that low humidity."

According to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, the fire was was 25 percent contained as of 6:30 a.m.

"We still have resources that have been out on the line all night long, mopping out any hot spots that exist, making sure they put any fires that are out and about."

The Bernardo Fire erupted around 11 a.m. Tuesday off Nighthawk Lane, southwest of Rancho Bernardo near Del Norte High School.

Cal Fire reported that at least 800 acres had burned as of Tuesday night, while the San Diego County Sheriff's Department estimated around 850 acres had been torched. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department said fire was contained to east of Via De La Valle, west of Dove Canyon Road, north of Carmel Valley Road and south of Camino Del Sur.

No injuries or structural damage were reported as of early Tuesday evening. Bortisser said a team of investigators are working to determine the exact cause and origin of the fire.

Authorities were expected to give an update on their progress at 8:30 a.m. at the command post at the West Bernardo Recreation Center at 18448 W. Bernardo Dr.

A Sig Alert is in effect in the area surrounding the command post due to the number fire personnel and engines in the area. Bernardo Drive is closed between Andanza Way and Aguamiel Road. The closure is expected to be in effect through at least 9 a.m.

In the early hours of the fire, the sheriff's department evacuated more than 5,000 homes and businesses in communities between the Rancho Penasquitos and Rancho Santa Fe areas, sending people to Torrey Pines High School and later, Rancho Bernardo High School to wait out the emergency. Evacuation orders were lifted for the Fairbanks Ranch and eastern Rancho Santa Fe areas around 8 p.m. Tuesday. However, several evacuees chose to stay overnight at the Red Cross shelter.

"It's pretty scary for people, thinking about, 'what am I going to take with me, do I need clothes for a couple days, what about my family heirlooms?’ evacuee Celeste Vinzant said. “How do you prepare for this kind of thing when it happens suddenly and quickly?"

Also evacuated on Tuesday were several area schools in the Poway Unified School District. On its website, the district said all of its schools would be open today, though it was understood many pupils may be absent if their families remained displaced. However, the Mountain Empire Unified School District was closing all schools Wednesday due to high winds and the potential for power outages.


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