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Crews Gain Upper Hand on Deadly East County Wildfire

The fire is about 55 percent contained.

Updated at 5:32 p.m.

CAMPO—Crews made progress Tuesday in defeating a wildfire that claimed a man's life and leveled at least 11 back-country homes in rural southeastern San Diego County over the last three days.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the 2,850-acre Campo-area blaze, dubbed the Shockey Fire, was about 55 percent contained, authorities said.

The conflagration erupted for unknown reasons off Shockey Truck Trail and state Route 94 about noon Sunday, according to Cal Fire. Within several hours, officials were urging residents of about 80 homes potentially in the path of the flames to evacuate.

About 2:30 p.m. Monday, emergency crews found the body of a retirement- age resident in the charred ruins of his Tierra del Sol Road house, sheriff's officials said.

Neighbors told authorities the disabled victim, whose name was withheld pending family notification, had decided to ignore the call to clear out of the neighborhood, opting to take his chances staying put.

Under state law, evacuation orders -- even when deemed "mandatory," as they were in this case -- cannot be forced on those who refuse to comply.

A dozen evacuees spent Sunday night at an American Red Cross shelter set up at Mountain Empire High School, and half that number stayed the following night.

As of 7:30 p.m. Monday, residents of two of the three evacuated communities -- Boulevard and Jewel Valley -- had been allowed to return to their homes. Those who live in the Tierra del Sol area were able to follow suit late this afternoon.

A stretch of SR-94 remained closed from Shockey Truck Trail to the U.S.- Mexico border as ground and helicopter crews continued to fully contain the northern and southern flanks of the smoldering burn area.

All Mountain Empire School District classes, which were canceled Monday, resumed today.

A total of 955 personnel battled the blaze, according to Cal Fire. Aiding the state agency in the effort were the county Sheriff's Department, Campo Indian Reservation Fire Department, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Border Patrol.

One crew member suffered a minor injury while working the lines, Cal Fire Capt. Mike Mohler said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency authorized funding to help state and local agencies defray the costs of fighting the blaze. The FEMA allocation will reimburse up to 75 percent of eligible expenses.

-City News Service

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