A wind-driven wildfire tore over hundreds of acres near Fallbrook Thursday, gutting at least 20 structures while threatening hundreds of others, closing roads and forcing evacuations and power outages.
The blaze dubbed the Lilac Fire erupted about 11:15 a.m. amid gusty,arid weather just west of Interstate 15 and north of Lilac Road in Pala Mesa.
Cal Fire officials said two civilians were being treated for burn injuries suffered in the Lilac Fire and are being taken to a hospital. The extent of the injuries isn't known.
After the region was told to expect power outages Wednesday, four school districts cancel classes Thursday as a precaution: Julian Union Elementary School District, Julian Union High School District, Spencer Valley School District and Warner Unified School District.
In consideration of employees and students affected by the Lilac Fire, Cal State San Marcos canceled class Thursday afternoon and Friday. Palomar College satellite campuses in Fallbrook, Bonsall and Camp Pendleton closed as a result of the fire, and MiraCosta College's Oceanside campus and Community Learning Center closed.
For safety reasons, San Diego Gas & Electric turned off power in numerous communities, including east and north Ramona, portions of San Diego Country Estates, La Jolla Indian Reservation/Mesa Grande/Santa Ysabel, Warner Springs, Ranchita, Borrego Springs, Shelter Valley, Palomar Mountain. Among other communities affected, as shown on the utilty’s Outage Map, are sections of Lakeside, Alpine and El Cajon. Depending on the area, SDG&E anticipates power will be restored from Thursday night to late Monday afternoon.
Within an hour of the fire’s start, the burn area had grown to about 50 acres as ground and airborne crews labored to keep the blaze from becoming a disastrously out-of-control conflagration like others raging this week across Southern California, Cal Fire reported.
By 2 p.m., the flames had spread over roughly 500 acres, were threatening an estimated 1,000 homes and had sent a thick pall of brown smoke to the southwest above the North County and out over the ocean, according to the state agency. Crews had gained no containment of the fire, which was being pushed by stiff Santa Ana winds “at a dangerous rate of spread,” Cal Fire reported.
San Diego County proclaimed a state of local emergency due to the fire. The proclamation, issued about three hours into the firefight, will help make the region eligible for state and federal resources.
Authorities cleared people out of communities near the blaze. Among the evacuated sites were a mobile home park, Bonsall High School, Sullivan Middle School, the Rancho Monserate Country Club and all neighborhoods along West Lilac Road. Advised to prepare to possibly leave their homes were residents in areas north of Pala Road, south of Reche Road, and east of Green Canyon and West Mission roads.
Authorities set up evacuation centers for the displaced at Fallbrook High School, Pechanga Casino and Pala Casino. People with large animals were advised to take livestock to the Del Mar Fairgrounds
The California Highway Patrol closed SR-76 from Gird Road to Old Highway 395 and blocked off the latter route between West Lilac Road and SR-76, according to Cal Fire.
The cause of the blaze -- which broke out amid a National Weather Service red flag wildfire warning slated to expire Sunday night -- was not immediately clear.