Chariot Fire Jumps Sunrise Highway at Mount Laguna Campground - NBC Southern California
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Chariot Fire Jumps Sunrise Highway at Mount Laguna Campground

The fire sparked Saturday northeast of Mount Laguna jumped Sunrise Highway Monday afternoon.



    Capt. Mike Mohler from CAL Fire explains how the fire's activity is moving near Julian. (Published Monday, July 8, 2013)

    The brush fire burning near Mount Laguna that has been threatening more than 100 structures has jumped Sunrise Highway, Cal Fire confirmed.

    Officials have announced mandatory evacuations for residents from Laguna Mountain Lodge south to Interstate 8.

    Cal Fire spokesperson Mike Mohler said the "Chariot Fire" jumped to the west side of the highway at Mount Laguna Campground.

    Watch: Latest from Sunrise Highway

    There was a sense of urgency in the area as residents told NBC 7 the fire exploded in strength and size in a matter of minutes.

    Mohler said around 4:30 p.m. that winds have calmed down a bit and it is expected to shift back toward the desert floor.

    Deputies went door-to-door to alert residents it's time to evacuate. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department said evacuations were conducted along Sunrise Highway between Milemarker 17-29. Deputies also sent out an "Alert San Diego" to residents within that area.

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    The Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) was participating in air drops to help control the fire officials said.

    As of 6:45 p.m. Monday, the "Chariot Fire" had burned 4,700 acres and was 15 percent surrounded. Eight buildings have been damaged or destroyed, according to Cal Fire. Check Cal Fire incident page

    Fire broke out around 1 p.m. Saturday at Chariot Canyon Road and Oriflamme Canyon Road, about nine to 10 miles southeast of Julian, just east of Sunrise Highway.

    The fast-moving wildfire in the remote location proved difficult for firefighters to get a handle on.

    "We have contrasting air influences from the desert and the ocean that causes just erratic winds," Cal Fire spokesperson Rosanne Grier said.

    As of 7:00 a.m. Monday, San Diego County sheriff's deputies were ordering anyone along Sunrise Highway from State Route 79 to Monument Peak to leave the area, according to the San Diego Office of Emergency Services.

    "Overnight some of the fire went toward the desert floor then the wind pushed it toward Sunrise Highway south and that's where we had the additional evacuations," Mohler told NBC 7 at the time.

    El Prado, Horse Heaven and Laguna Campgrounds have already been evacuated as well as the Al Bahr Shrine Camp and the Foster Lodge.

    Cal Fire reports more than 1,100 crew members battling the fire.

    Accessibility was an issue and crews worked hard to tackle the flames both on the ground and by air.

    Defending the highway is a main priority, Grier said. "That gives the engines a great access point for the fire and gives our crews the best chance at stopping the fire," she added.

    There have been four injuries in connection with the Chariot Fire, but the extent of those injuries is unknown.

    San Diego County Office of Emergency Services

    The evacuation order encompasses roughly 160 homes that Cal Fire says are mainly seasonal homes. Only 35 people have had to leave their homes so far.

    “If you live in that area and you see smoke, be ready and have that plan,” said Mohler. “We ask you to leave if you so early not only for public safety but for the first responders at that area."

    An evacuation center has been established at the Joan McQueen Middle School at 2001 Tavern Rd. in Alpine by the San Diego chapter of the American Red Cross. It will be open overnight to anyone in need of shelter, foot or clothing.

    While not wanting to excite residents, Mohler told NBC 7 the next areas of concern would be communities near Julian, Cuyamaca and Alpine. He said that even though there is plenty of acreage between the fire and those communities, they will be bringing in additional resources to protect residents from the fire.

    Mohler said the weather is definitely a factor in the changing direction of the fire. NBC 7 Meteorologist Jodi Kodesh said current temperature averages 93-degrees, 14-percent humidity, and 13 mph wind.

    He told NBC 7 the large smoke column looks like it is capping at 10000 ft. and holds the possibility of causing thunderstorm.

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    The cause of the fire is under investigation.

    View Chariot Fire in a larger map