This has been a busy day for San Diego firefighters. Early Tuesday morning May 13, 2014 at approximately 10:30 a.m. firefighters began working on what has been called a small construction fire. San Diego has seen abnormally high temperatures and very low humidity unlike anything on record for a century.
In almost no time however, the intense winds carried the fire to over 350 acres, threatening schools and homes in a nearby San Diego neighborhood. Within a couple of hours the fire jumped a main road and prompted multiple school closings. Children were evacuated with school buses to high schools away from fire zones to await parents.
Concerned parents, some of who were also being evacuated from their homes were scrambling to locate their children in school evacuation centers. Traffic was backed up at several schools as parents visited first their children's school and then had to go to the evacuation location.
A couple of high school students tweeted that they were stuck in school and could see the fire just outside. It wasn't long after that where schools that were used as evacuation centers were also evacuated as the rapidly moving flames headed toward the exclusive Rancho Santa Fe community and several multi-million dollar homes. Many of these homes sit on acreage just on the edge of canyons. These canyons were prime for the fire to jump up the hills quickly putting these homes at risk. One reporter indicated the fire was nearly swirling because the wind was whipping in so many different directions.
At around 2:30 p.m. Helen Woodward Animal center began requesting volunteer assistance to help transport dogs, cats and other animals such as therapy horses. Experienced horse people with horse trailers were needed to move horses to evacuation centers. Sea World was just one location offering evacuation relocation assistance as well as Petco and other groups. The Del Mar Fairgrounds became the evacuation location for large animals. The community stepped up and in under three hours, over 400 animals were successfully evacuated.
The numbers reported differed whether it was 500 homes evacuated or 20,000 people and over 700 acres burned. Either way it was a day where the community stepped up to help each other, the responders worked hard to ensure no homes or lives were lost and the evacuations were lifted and people have returned home this evening.
Although the evacuation orders were lifted in the evening, families in these areas are still on heightened alert because the fire is not out and the winds could pick back up at any moment whipping this fire back into a whirlwind on the move. Winds are fairly calm at this time but are forecast to increase more intensely tomorrow.
The hashtag on twitter for this fire was #Bernardofire. It didn't take long for those unsavory tweeters to hop on the hashtag in hopes of taking advantage of the increasing interest in that hashtag. The information going back and forth from those asking for help or others providing pictures of what they were seeing was important. One tweeter reported the hashtag abuse and it appears now that Twitter has removed those unacceptable tweets.
One post showed a picture of a man sitting in his car with the fire in view while he smoked and flicked a cigarette out his window. Multiple posts were also seen thanking fire fighters for saving homes. One woman who lost her home in the 2007 fire was grateful for the hard work and effort displayed by an amazing San Diego Fire Department as her home was saved today. Firefighters from all over the county, including from Ramona battled high winds and intense heat to assist in this effort along with several fire engines and four helicopters. Helicopters lined up to fill huge water containers from a pond on a local golf course and then drop water consecutively on flare-ups.
The San Diego fire department continues to fight the fire and monitor the area for any potential flare-ups. Follow the fire information on Twitter at #Bernardofire or the San Diego fire department @SDFD and @CALFIRESANDIEGO and San Diego 211 for updates. If you want to receive reverse 911 emergency information for San Diego residents only, visit the Sandiego.gov site and sign up.