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Rural East County Fires Burn More Than 20,000 Acres

No structures have been damaged by the six fires and no major injuries have been reported.

More than 1,500 firefighters Friday battled lightning-sparked wildfires in rural East County that have blackened 22,846 acres and forced hundreds of Ranchita-area residents from their homes and businesses.

The so-called Vallecito Lightning Complex consists of six wildfires, four of which were contained earlier this week and two that raged on early Friday, according to Cal Fire.

Of the two still growing, the so-called Wilson Fire stood at 11,691 acres and 75 percent containment as 7 a.m., while the Stewart Fire was at 10,630 acres and 90 percent containment, the state firefighting agency reported.

Cal Fire estimated the cost of fighting the wildfires in rural East County this week at more than $5 million to date.

A total of 1,552 fire personnel were battling the flames by air and ground. The effort involved 85 fire engines, 48 fire crews, 14 helicopters, 13 bulldozers and 29 water tenders as of Thursday evening.

Of the fire personnel assigned to the Vallecito Lightning Complex, 1,108 work for Cal Fire. Other agencies involved include the U.S. Forest Service, the California Conservation Corps, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and various fire departments within San Diego County.

Assisting the firefighters are 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.

Earlier this week, 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.

In addition to the still-growing Wilson and Stewart fires, the Vallecito Lightning Complex consists of the Vallecito, Cooper, Wynola and Shoots fires.

The Vallecito Fire kicked off the six-blaze cluster 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.

Yet another blaze, the Shoots Fire, erupted early Thursday. It scorched less than an acre before crews knocked it down.

No structural damage has been reported, but three firefighters have suffered minor injuries, including heat exhaustion and a foot problem, according to Cal Fire.

An emergency shelter was in place at Warner Springs High School for evacuees, who received word Tuesday afternoon via the county's “reverse 911” that they needed to clear out of their homes.

Members of the public with questions about evacuations or road closures were encouraged to call Cal Fire's local information line at (619) 590-3160 or follow the agency’s progress via Twitter, at #calfiresandiego.

-City News Service

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