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The sky above a four-alarm fire near Mandrapa Road several miles west of Calexico and north of Highway 98 are bright orange and red as flames whipped up by winds more than 25 mph burned heavy brush on Saturday afternoon and early evening, Feb. 20. Imperial County fire engines can be seen in the foreground. | CAMILO GARCIA JR. PHOTO

4-Alarm Brushfire Near Calexico 98% Contained; BLM Takes Over

CALEXICO — A wind-whipped, four-alarm brushfire that raged on the edge of the desert about eight miles west of Calexico was 98 percent contained and in the hands of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Sunday, Feb. 21., a county fire official said.

An El Centro Fire Department engine and a lone firefighter can be seen near heavy flame and smoke at the site of a four-alarm brushfire near Mandrapa Road several miles west of Calexico and north of Highway 98 on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 20. | CAMILO GARCIA JR. PHOTO

By Sunday midday, the fire had burned a total of 110 acres into BLM-managed lands past where Imperial County’s southwestern-most agricultural fields end and the open desert begins, county fire Battalion Chief Angel Morales said.  

A fire of unknown origins started in the heavily vegetated area north of Highway 98 near the West Main Canal around 2:40 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21, and quickly grew into a four-alarm fire involving some 11 fire agencies and as many as 40 crew members, the battalion chief said.

Imperial County Fire Department personnel from station Nos. 1, 2, and 3 made up the initial response, as winds gusting more than 25 mph quickly caused county fire officials to enact the mutual-aid system, Morales said, adding that within the first two-plus hours conditions escalated to a four-alarm blaze.

As walls of flame could be seen as high as 30 feet or more along areas of heavy brush near Mandrapa Road, the skies were either black with smoke or glowing bright orange and red from the growing fire shortly before 6 p.m. Saturday.

Several additional county substations were called in, as well as fire crews from Naval Air Facility El Centro, Westmorland, El Centro, Calexico, Holtville, Brawley, Calipatria, and Yuma city and Yuma Rural Metro fire departments, Morales said.

Although areas of the fire still burning on Sunday were mostly contained — the charred areas have created a natural boundary against the active areas, Morales said — the fire site managed by BLM is mostly inaccessible by vehicle and will require crews to walk to the fire zones with shovels and handheld implements.

One Imperial County fire crew remained at the scene on Sunday to assist BLM crews, who were helping to protect structures at a nearby farming operation, Morales added. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

No fire personnel were injured, no structures or property was damaged, Morales added.

(See map and photo gallery below.)

The area of a 110-acre brush fire is shown in detail (upper left in black frame) on a map of southern Imperial County. The fire, which started Saturday afternoon, Feb. 20, was eight miles west of Calexico and north of Highway 98 near the Central Main Canal. | GOOGLE MAP IMAGES
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