Wildfire Chars Open Terrain Near Zoo Safari Park

SAN PASQUAL VALLEY (CNS) - A wildfire blackened more than 200 open acres near San Diego Zoo Safari Park today, forcing residential evacuations and shutting down part of a rural highway as ground and airborne crews scrambled to corral the fast-moving flames. 

The blaze erupted for unknown reasons off the 17000 block of state Route 78 in the San Pasqual Valley shortly before 1:30 p.m., according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. Within 90 minutes, the blaze had burned across more than 200 acres, Cal Fire reported. As the flames spread rapidly to the southeast, authorities shut down SR-78 between Bandy Canyon and Ramona Highlands roads as a safety precaution and to expedite the firefighting operations in the rural area. 

Sheriff's deputies, meanwhile, cleared people out of homes potentially in the path of the fire. Vacated areas included neighborhoods along Via Cuesta; Via Vista Grande; Prestige Street; Day Star Way; Oak Grove, Rancho Villa, Rangeland, Rustic Villa and Weekend Villa roads; and Cinque Terre, Corniglia, Highland Hills, Horizon View and Rio Maggiore drives. The displaced residents were encouraged to wait out the fire at Ramona High School on Hanson Lane. 

Administrators at San Pasqual Academy, a secondary school for foster teens near the origin point of the blaze, decided on their own to evacuate the campus, police said. 

The fire had caused no reported structural damage or injuries as of late afternoon. By then, crews had the roughly 240-acre burn area about 5 percent contained, Cal Fire reported.

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