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Strong Santa Ana winds whip across San Diego area, stoking brush fires

The blustery conditions sent trees and utility standards toppling and stoked two afternoon brush fires.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Strong Santa Ana winds whipped through the San Diego area for a third straight day Wednesday, stoking afternoon brush fires that threatened homes and forced evacuations in communities miles apart from each other.

The period of unseasonably gusty conditions, which toppled trees and tipped over top-heavy vehicles in the county on Tuesday, prompted a National Weather Service high-wind warning slated to remain in effect until early Wednesday evening in coastal areas and late tonight in the mountains and valleys.

The blustery spell, according to the NWS, brought winds up to 52 mph along the coast, in the Las Flores area of Camp Pendleton, and up to 89 mph in the East County highlands, on Big Black Mountain.

Early Wednesday afternoon, the Santa Anas hastened the spread of a vegetation blaze that erupted in a grassy open area near Cuyamaca College and tore up brush-covered slopes toward rows of hillside homes off Campo and Jamacha roads in Rancho San Diego.

Several hours later, another fast-moving canyon brush fire broke out near Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, prompting the evacuation of several hundred homes.

Though they faced heightened challenges due to the stiff winds, ground crews and personnel aboard firefighting aircraft were able to halt both blazes before they could cause any reported structural damage or injuries, authorities said.

    

On Tuesday, the San Diego County Health and Human Services closed the COVID-19 testing site due to high winds and it will remain closed Wednesday.