The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department was called at 2:20 p.m. The fire started at the base of the canyon and moved “quickly up the hill,” according to Maurice Luque, spokesman for San Diego Fire-Rescue.
Luque said 30 people in a time-share condominium complex at the bottom of the canyon were evacuated as were 30 people from 20 homes at the top of the canyon.
The area affected was south of Interstate 8 and north of the 600 block of Madison Avenue near New Hampshire Street in University Heights.
Two fire helicopters made rounds for about 30 minutes, scooping water from the San Diego River and dumping it on the hillside.
“This hillside has about a 70 percent grade. It is treacherous and steep for firefighters to climb without the helicopters knocking down the fire,” Luque said.
After the helicopters finished, numerous firefighters remained in the canyon, continuing to check for hot spots.
Luque said houses at the top of the canyon were threatened. Firefighters were positioned at the top and bottom of the canyon with fire hoses. Meanwhile, several homeowners at the canyon rim had pulled garden hoses around their houses, although the fire was extinguished before they were required.
The fire was determined to be arson, although no arrests have been made and the investigation is continuing.