Allison Hoffman, AP, July 25, 2006
Alpine — A 7,000-acre wildfire that forced the evacuation of more than a hundred homes near the California-Mexico border may have been caused by an abandoned campfire set by illegal immigrants, authorities said Monday.
The fire had burned nearly 11 square miles of brush and chaparral in the Cleveland National Forest in southern San Diego County.
It appeared to have spread early Saturday from an abandoned campfire set in a side drainage of a canyon, the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement. Evidence at the scene suggested “the campfire was left by undocumented immigrants,” it said.
What evidence investigators found was not immediately clear.
The wildfire prompted sheriff’s deputies to order 125 homes evacuated in the town of Alpine starting Sunday. Residents in about 1,350 homes throughout parts of Pine Valley and Lake Morena were told to remain on standby, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Susan Plese.
More than 1,500 homes and 100 commercial properties could be threatened by the fire, which was about 5 percent contained, but the threat was not immediate.