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Latest San Pasqual wildfire sparked by passing vehicle

REGION — Sparks from a passing vehicle — not an arsonist, as previously believed — ignited a wildfire that spread over about 100 open acres this week near San Diego Zoo Safari Park, authorities reported today.

The blaze — one of three to break out in the same general area in as many weeks — erupted off state Route 78 and Cloverdale Road in the San Pasqual Valley shortly before 3 p.m. Monday, prompting residential evacuations but causing no reported structural damage or injuries.

Investigators believed for a time that the blaze was an act of arson, but concluded following further witness interviews that it had been ignited by “the rim of a tire that was throwing sparks into the brush along the side of the road,” said Monica Munoz, spokeswoman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

“Multiple fires along the San Pasqual Valley corridor, along with multiple points of origin, had the investigative team thinking (the fire was) intentional (Monday),” she said.

The blaze, dubbed the Cloverdale Fire, forced a closure of a stretch of SR-78, prompted the zoo park to close early for the day and left a firefighter with a minor injury.

As of 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, crews had the smoldering burn area about 65 percent contained, Munoz said.

In late July, a wildfire blackened an estimated 365 open acres east of the wild-animal theme park. Last week, another blaze scorched about 150 acres in the same general area.

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