De Luz Fire: Camp Pendleton residents able to return home after evacuation (video)

Cpl. Orrin Farmer (via Facebook)
Cpl. Sarah Wolff-Diaz (via Facebook)
Cpl. Orrin Farmer (via Facebook)

Video | Firetracker

A fire that broke out on Camp Pendleton in San Diego on Saturday afternoon continues to burn on the base. About 300 personnel were evacuated from a military housing unit overnight as a precaution, along with about 30 people at a naval hospital.

Update 4:20 p.m.: Residents able to return home
Officials at Camp Pendleton military base say evacuees displaced from yesterday's fire can return home. In a press release sent Sunday afternoon, officials said residents of the O'Neill Heights housing area, including many who were staying in local hotels, could head home. According to a statement released by the base: 
At 5:00 p.m., residents of O'Neill Heights Housing will be allowed to return to their homes via Santa Margarita road leading to Sequoia Road and Pusan Road. Residents should be aware that the fire is ongoing and emergency vehicles will be in the area. If residents discover property damage as a result of the fire, they should report it to their housing manager.
There is no word yet on whether patients who were evacuated from the naval hospital will be returning. 

Update 3:28 p.m.: Officials to announce whether evacuees can return Sunday night

(Photo courtesy Cpl. Trevon Peracca, Camp Pendleton PIO)

Camp Pendleton spokeswoman Sgt. Valerie Nash said fire officials will make an announcement whether evacuees can return home Sunday night. 

"The decision whether or not evacuated families will be allowed to return to their homes will be made later this evening," Nash said, adding that officials are hoping to update the public before 8 p.m.

Nash said containment  is still at 15 percent, though she said those numbers may be updated later tonight. 

Update 12:06 p.m.: Smoke 'like a thick fog' 

Ash from the De Luz Fire burning on Camp Pendleton covered areas near the base, and residents said the thick black smoke that had blanketed the area overnight has decreased Sunday. 

Hospital corpsman Ryan Anderson and his wife Kelly are stationed in an area of the Marine Corps base that hasn't been evacuated. They said the fire left ash on their car and lawn Sunday morning, and smoke permeated the house even with the windows shut. 

"We noticed this morning the smoke had dissipated quite a bit," Kelly said. "We have a new baby and I was feeding him in the middle of the night and I looked outside. It looked like a thick fog, but it was all smoke. I mean it was right up to our front door."

The two watched and shot video of the fire as it raced across the hillside Saturday afternoon, before being asked to leave the parking lot where they had pulled over. 

"The fire was basically consuming the hillside, but it was doing it at a slow pace," Ryan said. "Then all of the sudden — as you can see in her video — the wind picked up and it just turned it into a huge blaze. I mean the flames started going 40 feet high. You could see, like, fire tornadoes spinning up out of it at the top of the mountain. It was just crazy. And then it started going towards the houses."

The two said they initially thought a helicopter had crashed, due to the thick black plumes of smoke.

(Above: Video from Ryan Anderson of the fast-moving DeLuz Fire burning on Camp Pendleton)

(Above: Kelly Anderson's video of the early spread of the De Luz Fire burning on Camp Pendleton.)

Update 9:40 a.m.: Hospital open, Furloughed Pendleton base personnel called to help  

A spokeswoman for Camp Pendleton says about 330 people remain displaced after a brush fire began burning a the Marine Corps base Saturday afternoon. 

Major Amy Punzel says the residents are mostly holed up in hotels nearby. About 30 patients at the base's hospital were evacuated to Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside and Naval Medical Center in San Diego. Camp Pendleton's hospital has power back and is fully functional.

"Our naval hospital here at Camp Pendleton initially was not evacuated. The fire chief determined it was safe to stay in," Punzel said. "Shortly after, they lost power and that is what caused the decision to actually evacuated the patients."

Power was restored to the hospital at about 10 p.m., but patients will stay where they are for now, she said, so they are not further inconvenienced by another move.

She said base personnel who had been furloughed due to the government shutdown were called in overnight to help.

"There were some in our operations that were brought back on because you can't just have one person doing the operations all night long," Punzel said. "So we are ready, we're prepared for emergency operations and we're going to ensure that we're doing everything we can, regardless of a shutdown or furlough situation."

The fire, now burning 1500 acres, has been growing all night. Shifting winds have made it difficult for crews to contain it.

"What everybody is concerned about is those winds shifting," the major said. "It makes the job very challenging for the firefighters in the air and on the ground."

About 216 firefighters are now working to contain the blaze, she said. The U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire are also helping out with firefighting efforts.

Follow this fire using KPCC's Firetracker tool

9:23 a.m.: A fire that broke out on Camp Pendleton has forced the evacuation of hospital and a military housing unit.

Base officials say the fire – which broke out near Lake O'Neil Saturday afternoon – prompted the evacuation of 230 residents at a nearby housing unit.

A power outage at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton also prompted officials to transfer about 30 patients to other hospitals in the area.

The fire has burned about 1500 acres, sending smoke that could be seen across northern San Diego County.

The cause of the fire and the power outage was under investigation.

Hot, dry and windy conditions fueled several small fires across Southern California, including one that caused a key freeway junction north of Los Angeles to shut down.