There are more than 1,000 fire engines in the county right now, but none of them are at the head of the fire because some flames are as much as 100 feet long, says area fire coordinator Bill Metcalf.

Earlier today, Metcalf and other officials this morning warned that the fires that have ravaged San Diego County’s backcountry will continue to spread into suburban neighborhoods and could potentially travel as far as the Pacific Coast.

He said it could be easier to evacuate coastal areas than the backcountry because there are more roads and more time to get to a freeway to escape north or south.

Evacuations have been issued as far as the western side of Interstate 5 in Solana Beach in an effort to clear the way for firefighters combating the Witch Fire, which has made its way westward past Interstate 15 in some North County areas.

But officials said residents in the path of the fire should anticipate the possibility of leaving their homes as Santa Ana winds are expected to continue stoking the fire until Tuesday evening at the earliest.

“If they are in any way downwind from these fires, they need to seriously think about finding somewhere else to be for some period of time,” Metcalf said.

Metcalf said that because almost all of the fires are moving west, they could spur evacuations for beach communities in the fire’s path. “I don’t think for any of them that’s not a potential,” he said.

Metcalf cautioned that while the fires are generally moving west, a flank of the Witch Fire is also moving south toward Barona.

While evacuations have already been called for in suburban areas such as Escondido, Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Santa Fe, officials emphasized that residents should stay alert for future announcements. Some characterized the fires as being the county’s most dangerous fires ever.

“People who thought they’d be safe today might not be safe tonight,” said Ron Lane, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Services.

Metcalf said there’s two ways for the fire to calm down: “We either need the wind to stop or for it to run out of fuel. … Nobody can stop a fire with winds like this.”

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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