Crews gain ground on Vallecito Lightning Complex fires - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Crews gain ground on Vallecito Lightning Complex fires

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JULIAN (CNS) - Hundreds of residents of two North County hamlets returned to their homes Saturday as crews had one fire surrounded by fire lines, and another fire 95 percent contained.

"All road closures were lifted Friday night at 5:30 p.m.," said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Nick Schuler.

The Stewart Fire, off Highway 78 near Scissors Crossing, was 100 percent contained at 10,632 acres. Further north, the Wilson Fire was 95 percent contained of 11,669 acres, Schuler said.

Those two fires, and five others already dealt with, were triggered by lightning storms that ignited dry brush Sunday and during the week. None of them burned any structures, but about 180 back-country residences in Ranchita and San Felipe were evacuated.

The so-called Vallecito Lightning Complex caused minor injuries to four firefighters, including superficial burns and heat exhaustion, while working the lines amid stifling heat and humidity.

About 1,550 personnel battled the blazes by air and ground. The effort involved 85 fire engines, 14 helicopters, 13 bulldozers and 29 water tenders.

Among those crews, 1,108 worked for Cal Fire. Other agencies involved included the U.S. Forest Service, the California Conservation Corps, state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and various fire departments within San Diego County.

Also assisting the firefighters were personnel from the California Emergency Management Agency, San Diego County Sheriff's Department, Caltrans, San Diego Humane Society, American Red Cross and the California Highway Patrol.

On Wednesday, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar sent eight helicopters to help shuttle personnel to the fire lines and make water drops.

The so-called Vallecito Fire kicked off the spate of blazes Sunday night, blackening about 520 acres southeast of Julian, while the Cooper Fire to north, and the Wynola Fire, off state Route 79, each spread over roughly three acres.

Two other blazes, the Porter and Shoots Fire, erupted Thursday. The former scorched less than an acre and the latter about two acres before crews knocked them down.

The cost of fighting the wildfires topped $5 million to date, according to state officials.


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