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Fire erupts along border near Tecate, quickly scorches 500 acres; 5 people rescued

A brush fire erupted Monday afternoon and quickly charred about 500 acres of vegetation in a rural area near the U.S.-Mexico border west of Tecate, authorities said.

Firefighters and sheriff’s deputies rescued five people suspected of crossing the border illegally from near the fire area, Cal Fire San Diego Capt. Thomas Shoots said.

Two of the people required medical care — their injuries were thought to be heat related — and were airlifted from the scene to waiting ambulances, Shoots said. Three others were turned over to Border Patrol agents.

The blaze was reported a little before 1 p.m. in an area south of Barrett Junction and east of Marron Valley, according to Cal Fire San Diego, which said it was burning at a moderate pace.

It had grown to about 500 acres by 3 p.m., Shoots said. The fire was not threatening homes or other buildings, but was threatening ” critical infrastructure” on nearby Tecate Peak.

“There are a lot of radio towers and that kind of thing,” Shoots said. “We have resources up there protecting that infrastructure.”

As of about 3:15 p.m., firefighters did not have any part of the blaze contained, though lighter brush on the south side of the burn area had slowed part of its growth.

Winds in the area were relatively strong, according to Shoots, who was at the scene. “The south side of the fire is looking pretty decent, but the main head of the fire is pushing pretty hard,” he said.

About 180 firefighters — including the crews from 20 engines as well as bulldozer crews and others — were battling the blaze as of 3:30 p.m., Shoots said. Water and retardant-dropping planes and helicopters from San Diego County and across Southern California were helping douse the flames from the sky.

Monday’s fire — dubbed the Border 13 fire — was about a quarter-mile from a 65-acre blaze that ignited Sunday afternoon, Shoots said. That fire was 25 percent contained as of Monday morning.

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