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4,500-Acre Fire Halted as Santa Ana Winds Die

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Black Mountain brush fire, which burned 4,500 acres between Rancho Penasquitos and Del Mar, was contained Wednesday evening as fierce Santa Ana winds finally died down, officials said.

By 6 p.m., the blaze that forced thousands of people to flee homes, schools and businesses Tuesday afternoon was termed 95% contained and was expected to be controlled later in the night.

Officials also said brush fires in Santee and on the Mesa Grande Indian Reservation that burned a combined 470 acres have been contained.

In the Black Mountain fire, authorities said out-of-town crews, some from Laguna Hills and San Bernardino, were sent home by mid-afternoon Wednesday, with a skeleton crew of 20 left to control the blaze.

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Residents began returning to homes in the McGonigle Canyon and Shaw Valley areas near North City West on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, officials said, and owners are being asked to retrieve horses from emergency quarters at the Del Mar Race Track.

Officials don’t know the cause of the Black Mountain blaze, which began burning out of control Tuesday morning near Emden and Black Mountain roads in Rancho Penasquitos.

Aided by Santa Ana gusts estimated as strong as 60 m.p.h., the fire quickly raced west and threatened homes in a broad area between inland Interstate 15 and coastal Interstate 5.

The owner of the Evergreen Nursery on Black Mountain Road lost four structures on the 80-acre property, estimating the damage as high as $160,000. A pair of trailers in Shaw Valley near Shaw Ridge Road were also destroyed. Three elementary schools and Torrey Pines High School were evacuated Tuesday afternoon, but despite the scare, the fire claimed no deaths and not a single injury.

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In Santee, about 300 acres of brush burned before firefighters from San Diego, Orange County and other areas helped the Santee Fire Department control the blaze late Tuesday night, Santee spokesman Edd Long said.

That fire started Tuesday evening near El Nopal and Magnolia Avenue and swept west, extending to the end of Fanita Parkway near Santee Lakes.

Three juveniles were arrested in Santee late Tuesday and booked on suspicion of starting the fire with a device resembling a flame thrower, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday.

The fire that started on Mesa Grande Road near the Mesa Grande Indian Reservation not far from Ramona burned 170 acres before being brought under control Wednesday, officials said.

Times staff writer Karen Smith contributed to this article.


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