ESCONDIDO — A wildfire that investigators believe was deliberately set just west of San Diego Zoo Safari Park — one of three to erupt in the area in as many weeks — prompted evacuations Monday afternoon and forced the closure of a stretch of the rural highway that fronts the popular wild animal exhibition grounds.
The blaze, which is now contained, originally broke out for unknown reasons off state Route 78 and Cloverdale Road in the San Pasqual area shortly before 3 p.m., according to Cal Fire.
Sheriff’s deputies cleared people out of some homes along San Pasqual Valley Road as ground crews and personnel aboard firefighting aircraft worked to subdue the flames. The safari park closed early due to the emergency.
#CloverdaleFire [update] The forward rate of spread has been stopped. The fire is 90 acres and 15% contained.
— CAL FIRE SAN DIEGO (@CALFIRESANDIEGO) August 14, 2018
Within two hours, the blaze, dubbed the Cloverdale Fire, had grown to about 40 acres, the state agency reported.
Authorities blocked off state Route 78 near the blaze area as a safety precaution and to expedite the fire-suppression operations.
By 5:45 p.m., firefighters had halted the spread of the blaze. As of 7 p.m. it was estimated to have burned about 100 acres and was 15 percent contained.
One firefighter suffered a minor injury and was treated at the scene, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. No structural damage was reported.
In late July, a wildfire blackened an estimated 365 open acres east of the zoo park. Last week, another blaze scorched about 150 acres in the same general area.
San Diego Fire-Rescue Department metro arson strike team investigators determined the fire was deliberately set, according to broadcast reports.
#CloverdaleFire [update] off San Pasqual Valley Rd., near Escondido (San Diego County) is now 90 acres and 15% contained. Forward spread stopped. Unified Command: @CALFIRESANDIEGO and @SDFD pic.twitter.com/yp8ew8hHus
— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) August 14, 2018