County hit by record heat, brush fire

County hit by record heat, brush fire

9 October 2008

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USA — San Diego sweltered through record-breaking heat yesterday while a 1,000-acre brush fire at Camp Pendleton covered North County with smoke that drifted as far as Temecula.

Cal Fire’s two Superscooper water bombers were called into service for the first time in the county, to drench flaming hillsides with seawater.

Smoke from a fire on Camp Pendleton was seen from the north end of San Dimas Avenue in Oceanside. Flames reportedly came within about a mile of Oceanside city limits in the afternoon.
Photo: CHARLIE NEUMAN / Union-Tribune The 94-degree reading at Lindbergh Field, the city’s official weather station, broke the mark for the highest temperature ever on Oct. 8. The previous record was 93, set in 1899.

El Cajon, Chula Vista and the Wild Animal Park also had a day for the books.

Relief from the heat should be immediate. National Weather Service forecaster Brandt Maxwell said temperatures around the county could drop as much as 20 degrees today.

The Camp Pendleton brush fire started about 3:30 p.m. at an explosives disposal range in a southwestern area of the base between an airfield and a golf course, said Marine Staff Sgt. Jesse Lora, a base spokesman.

The golf course was evacuated, Lora said. Flames reportedly came within about a mile of Oceanside city limits in the afternoon.

Power was shut off in some areas of the base, leaving some barracks without electricity, as a precautionary measure to allow for back-burning operations, base officials said. The right lanes of Vandegrift Boulevard in both directions were closed to any traffic except emergency vehicles.

Marine Cpl. Priscilla Vitale, a base spokeswoman, said it was not known how the fire started or whether training was going on at the time. Vitale said she did not know if unexploded ordnance remained on the range.

Cal Fire, the U.S. Forest Service and the Sheriff’s Department sent a total of 10 aircraft to the fire, including helicopters and tanker planes and two CL-145 Superscooper water bombers leased last month from Canada, Cal Fire Capt. Nick Schuler said.

Aircraft were grounded by nightfall, but firefighters kept working on the ground.

In the late afternoon, a trail of smoke several miles long could be seen as far south as Solana Beach. By 7 p.m., the fire was burning in a northeasterly direction, and Riverside County residents said they were getting smoke and ash.

Last night, residents from Oceanside, Vista and Fallbrook reported flames that appeared close to their homes.

What they were seeing, said Cal Fire Capt. Nick Schuler, were flames from the fire on base that were highly visible in the night sky. No new, separate fires had broken out, Schuler said.

“There is no threat to local communities,” said Camp Pendleton spokeswoman Maj. Kristen Lasica, adding that it is hard to judge distance at night.

In San Diego yesterday, a fire began about 3 p.m. in some palm trees and vegetation in a gully off Chollas Parkway where it parallels University Avenue, next to an apartment complex. Firefighters quickly put out that blaze.

But wind blew embers across the street, spreading fire to about seven palm trees and then to some canvas awnings and the roof of the 56-unit University Terraces apartments. The fire was quickly extinguished.

Weather service forecasters say temperatures could climb again beginning Sunday if Santa Ana winds arrive as expected, but they do not think it will get nearly as hot as yesterday.

The 94 degrees in San Diego yesterday matched the high for the year, which was recorded April 27.

San Diego’s daily temperature records date to 1875, which is longer than most cities on the West Coast.

For some county residents, yesterday’s scorcher was poorly timed.

“We’re getting air conditioning tomorrow,” Justin Donaldson, who works at Bicycle Discovery in Pacific Beach, said yesterday. “It’s pretty hot in the shop and outside.”

He said the weather felt more like his native Stockton than San Diego. It was 87 in Stockton yesterday.

Several coastal spots, including Coronado, La Jolla, Torrey Pines, Carlsbad and Oceanside, reached the 90s before noon. An expected shift from calm, hot air to cooling onshore breezes did not occur until late in the day.

Inland residents didn’t catch a break, either. Fran Galvin of La Mesa got quite a temperature shock when she returned Tuesday night from a trip to New England.

“We just got back from nice, cool weather,” she said. “It was nice and moist. Now my hands are cracking.”

A thermometer in her yard read 110 degrees in the early afternoon, she said. Although it was way too hot for her, she said at least it was perfect weather for drying clothes outside.

The heat prompted many people to head for the beaches. Encinitas called in two extra lifeguards to handle slightly larger crowds, lifeguard Paul Chapman said.

“Usually, it’s pretty mellow this time of year, but you will get these days when people try to escape the heat,” Chapman said. “I’m expecting every day like this to be the last one of the season.”

Chapman might be right. Forecaster Maxwell said low clouds and fog should return to the immediate coast this morning, dropping the highs into the mid-70s. By tomorrow, the beaches should be in the 60s, and most of the county should be cooler than normal.

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