Bernardo Fire: San Diego County explains 'offending words' in fire message

Smoke rises from a canyon where a wild fire burned Tuesday in San Diego. County officials say they're investigating how a rogue message appeared in their emergency app.
Smoke rises from a canyon where a wild fire burned Tuesday in San Diego. County officials say they're investigating how a rogue message appeared in their emergency app.

Fire officials in San Diego are hoping they've seen the worst of a fire that has burned 1,548 acres. They also say they'll get to the bottom of an odd message in an alert that stated, "fire in your pants."

The blaze caused evacuation calls to go out to residents, schools, and businesses in an exclusive area of San Diego County. No injuries or structural damage has been reported.

Fire Tracker

Late Tuesday, officials acknowledged confusion over how many evacuation notices had gone out, clarifying that despite an earlier report, 20,000 homes had not been evacuated, member station KPBS of San Diego reports. Instead, that number seems to reflect the number of alerts that went out.

RELATED: Bernardo Fire update: Flames force evacuations near San Diego

All evacuation alerts for the area were lifted Tuesday evening. And San Diego Fire-Rescue now says the blaze, called the Bernardo Fire, is 25 percent contained Wednesday morning.

Officials were embarrassed by an inappropriate message that popped up in a San Diego County app that was meant to inform residents of the emergency area. "Fire in your pants," the "notes" section of the message read; officials say it should have read "Bernardo Fire."

The agency fixed the problem by republishing with the correct data, according to NBC News 7 in San Diego, which says they also "closed a 'portal' into the system that the culprit used to gain entry."

Local ABC 10 News says it was told that "the county worked on it on the cloud 'but someone left the door open.'"

News 7 reports that county spokesman Mike Workman says the source of the "offending words" will be found, and that he "thinks steps will soon be taken to prevent something like this from happening again."

As is often the case with the Internet, the fix didn't happen fast enough to keep people from taking a screenshot of the erroneous message from the county's geographic information system. Images soon appeared on Twitter.

As for the actual brush fire, the effort to contain the blaze is continuing Wednesday. The smoke and ash it produced were thick enough to appear on weather radar, as NBC News 7's Jodi Kodesh captured in a tweet.

And as David Wagner of KPBS reports, fire crews are gearing up for some hard work, thanks to California's historic drought.

"You can't really talk about 'fire season' anymore," San Diego Fire Department spokesperson Lee Swanson tells Wagner. "It's year-round."

Wagner adds, "A 'red flag' warning issued by the National Weather Service remains in effect through Wednesday."

Bill Chappell/NPR

Previously: Bernardo, Miguelito fires: Flaring fires scare Californians but grow calm

A pair of wildfires flared and thousands of residents fled amid drought conditions and spiking heat in California, but both blazes had calmed as night fell and the winds that had whipped them diminished.

Evacuation orders were lifted for all of the more than 20,000 residents in and around San Diego on Tuesday night just a few hours after they were called, and all but a handful of the 1,200 homes and businesses told to evacuate in Santa Barbara County had been allowed to return.

The two blazes, 250 miles apart, each covered more than 800 acres and each was 5 percent contained, but the San Diego-area fire was much closer to much more populated areas, and the rugged terrain and unseasonably warm temperatures made firefighting difficult, creating some scary moments that quickly passed.

Neither blaze caused any home damage or injuries, but another hot, dry day is expected Wednesday.

"We believe we have a pretty good handle on it," San Diego Fire Chief Javier Mainar said. "We hope to do some more work through the night and into tomorrow, but I think the largest part of the emergency has passed."

The flames erupted in the fire-prone Rancho Bernardo area of the city, driven by hot, dry Santa Ana winds.

By late afternoon, the flames ripped through canyons to approach expensive homes and new subdivisions on the ridges. It spread to Rancho Santa Fe, one of the nation's wealthiest communities, known for its multimillion-dollar homes, golfing and horseback riding.

Black and gray smoke billowed over northern San Diego, filled with whirling ash and embers that created small spot fires. Flames crept within yards of some homes before firefighters doused them.

On one road, people on bicycles and skateboards stopped to watch as a plane dumped water on flames a half-mile away. At least two high schools and three elementary schools were evacuated.

Cameron Stout, filling his tank at a gas station, got a text from his wife shortly after noon saying that she was packing up and leaving with the family's pictures, laptops and other valuables. Their next-door neighbor's home burned in a fire 15 years ago, he said.

"This area's been through this before," he said. "I thought the recent rains would have prevented this from happening. But after a couple days of 100 degrees, it's reversed all that."

Katy Ghasemi, 14, was held for hours in her high school classroom before the school let the children go home. Students studied, ate lunch, did yoga and looked out the windows at the fire.

"There were a lot of flames. Some were right near the front gate," she said.

The city of San Diego issued between 16,000 and 17,000 evacuation orders, according to San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore. Gore said the sheriff's department issued an additional 5,000 evacuation orders outside city limits. All the evacuations were called off by about 9 p.m.

Fire Tracker: Miguelito Fire

Meanwhile, in the Santa Barbara County community of Lompoc, heavy brush and downed power lines provided special challenges for the nearly firefighters, said David Sadecki of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Chrissy Cabral, 57, rounded up friends to help her remove 19 head of cattle she keeps at a local ranch after the fire shifted directions. She said firefighters warned her: "Get out now."

"It was very high flames, very dark," she said.

The group used trailers to move the cows five miles away, Cabral said.

The Associated Press

This story has been updated.