Bernardo fire scorches more than 1,500 acres around San Diego

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - California fire crews, helped by diminished overnight winds, made substantial headway by early Wednesday against a blaze that had prompted thousands of evacuations in and around San Diego for several hours while flames were at their peak.

Crews managed to establish containment lines around 25 percent of the fire's perimeter by daybreak Wednesday, with all evacuation orders lifted since Tuesday night, and area schools closed due to the blaze reopened, fire officials said.

Since erupting late on Tuesday morning, the fire has scorched more than 1,500 acres of brush, stoked by triple-digit temperatures, low humidity and winds that gusted to 25 miles per hour.

Winds abated late on Tuesday, enabling firefighters to gain ground against the flames with help from water-dropping aircraft, but fire teams faced a potentially difficult second day.

"We're very worried about today," said Lee Swanson, a spokeswoman for San Diego Fire and Rescue. "We're looking at gusting winds to 50 miles per hour, humidity at 5 percent and temperatures reaching 100 degrees (Fahrenheit). Those are dangerous conditions."

The so-called Bernardo fire flared as California entered the height of wildfire season in the midst of one of the state's worst droughts on record, setting the stage for what fire officials fear could be a particularly intense and dangerous year.

California officials have kept staffing levels for wildland firefighters at elevated levels since last year because of the drought.

No property losses or injuries have been reported in the Bernardo fire, which was burning on the fringes of San Diego and into unincorporated areas lying just to the north of the city. The cause of the blaze was under investigation.

(Reporting by Marty Graham; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andrew Hay)