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East County Wilfire Expected to Be Fully Contained Wednesday

The 2,851-acre took one life.

The 2,851-acre Shockey Fire, which has claimed a man's life and destroyed 11 back-country homes in rural southeastern San Diego County, is expected to be fully contained Wednesday.

With the fire's expansion having "slowed considerably," firefighters were "gaining the upper hand" by Tuesday afternoon, according to a Cal Fire recorded update. By evening, crews were being demobilized and by this morning, the Campo-area fire was 95 percent contained, the agency reported.

A stretch of state Route 94 that had been closed from Shockey Truck Trail to the U.S.-Mexico border was open once again. All Mountain Empire School District classes, which were canceled Monday, resumed Tuesday.

The blaze broke out off Shockey Truck Trail and state Route 94 around noon Sunday and 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 said the disabled victim 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 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.

Two crew members suffered injuries while working the lines, Cal Fire reported. At least one of the injuries was minor, Cal Fire Capt. Mike Mohler said.

In addition to the 11 homes burned to the ground, two others were damaged and 14 outbuildings were destroyed, according to Cal Fire, which earlier had said that 20 homes had been razed. The fire also destroyed 14 vehicles, Cal Fire reported.

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.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

-City News Service

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