A Santa Ana-stoked wildfire tore over swaths of brushy open land west of Black Mountain today, charring hundreds of acres alongside rural neighborhoods and forcing tens of thousands of residential evacuations in communities between Rancho Penasquitos and Rancho Santa Fe.
The flames, which erupted for unknown reasons shortly after 10:30 a.m. off Camino San Bernardo and Nighthawk Lane in 4S Ranch, spread to within several feet of some homes but caused no reported injuries or structural damage.
Pushed by hot, dry winds out of the east amid summer-like temperatures, the blaze, dubbed the Bernardo Fire, snaked through canyons between high-end suburban enclaves, racing through thick vegetation faster than ground and airborne crews could douse them.
As of late afternoon, the flames had blackened at least 800 acres as it moved to the west and north through and next to developments in Del Sur, Santa Luz, Fairbanks Ranch and Rancho Santa Fe, according to police.
By early evening, crews had most of the active fire extinguished, though the extensive burn area was only about 5 percent contained, officials said.
San Diego Mayor San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer tweeted that he was "closely monitoring the fire situation from the city's Emergency Operations Center." He added that he was "proud of the hard work of our first- responders."
In the early afternoon, Poway Unified School District administrators evacuated pupils from Del Sur, Stone Ranch and Willow Grove elementary schools by bus. Students at Del Norte High School, near the point of the fire's origin, and at Oak Valley middle school were directed to remain in their classrooms as a precaution, PUSD spokeswoman Jessica Wakefield said.
No serious air-quality issues were reported at any of the campuses, though the smoke was fairly thick at Del Sur Elementary, Wakefield said at midday.
As of 5 p.m., authorities had cleared out residents and closed traffic lanes along Artesian Road; Calle Mayer; Camino del Sur; Deer Ridge Road; Del Sur Court; El Sicomoro at Via De Santa Fe; Entrada de Luz East; Run of the Knolls; and San Dieguito Road in the area of El Apajo and Montien Road, according to San Diego police. Fairbanks Ranch Country Club and a few areas south of Carmel Valley also were evacuated.
Those displaced by the blaze were being directed to shelter facilities at Rancho Bernardo and Torrey Pines high schools.
A total of about 20,000 households were under evacuation orders at the height of the emergency.
Among those who vacated their homes for safety's sake was San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey, who lives in Black Mountain Ranch. He advised others in threatened areas to do likewise.
"All residents who are under mandatory evacuation notices should respect the direction of our first-responders," Kersey said. "Lives depend on all of our cooperation. If you feel your family is in danger and you have not received an evacuation notice, voluntary evacuation is an option."
—City News Service