Brush Fire at Camp Pendleton Scorches 760 Acres, 95 Percent Contained

Crews hope to have the fire fully contained soon

A brush fire on Camp Pendleton that once threatened several homes in San Clemente has scorched 760 acres, Camp Pendleton officials said Friday.

Firefighters have made good progress stopping the forward progression of the fast-moving, so-called Cristianitos Fire. As of Friday morning, the fire is 95 percent contained, and crews hope to have the fire completely contained soon.

The fire crossed the over the county line into Orange County Thursday morning. The homes closest to the fire are off the Avenida Pico and Talega area.

Homes, businesses and an animal shelter in San Clemente were threatened, OCFD Captain Kurtz said. As of Thursday afternoon, Kurtz said there were no evacuations, no structures lost and no injuries reported.

More than 350 firefighters, two air tankers and two water helicopters battled the fast-moving brush fire, Kurtz said. 

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Before 7 a.m. Thursday, crews were setting multiple backfires along a San Clemente ridge to remove any potential fuel. Firefighters are focusing on continuing to surround the fire.

Weather conditions were working in favor of the firefighters, according to NBC 7 Meteorologist Jodi Kodesh. Temperatures in the area of Camp Pendleton North topped out at 71 degrees.

The fire broke out just before 6 p.m. Wednesday north of Cristianitos Gate (Cristianitos Road) and San Mateo Drive, Camp Pendleton Fire Capt. Brian Villiard said. 

The fire first started east of Interstate 5 and south of Cristianitos Road, near the San Mateo Campground on base, and the flames moved west.

Authorities were considering evacuating several nearby streets before the sun set Wednesday, including Calle Ameno, Avenida Acapulco, and Villa Zapata.

The fire was initially mapped at 10 to 15 acres but quickly spread to more than 100 acres within an hour. There was no threat to Camp Pendleton, though the fire was on the northeast part of the base, officials said.

Alex Milewski, who lives and works in San Clemente, was sad to see some of his favorite mountain bike trails destroyed by fire.

“It will take probably a year or two for the brush to kind of clear out. If we have a bad rain storm we’ll have a lot of mudslides. So everything will be different for a few years,” Milewski said. “After a little while it will come back and we will be riding again.”

The wildfire sent smoke as far north as Orange County. Residents in Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, and Irvine saw the smoke. Kurtz said the increase in smoke was due to firefighting tactics. 

No other information was immediately available.

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