Photo: Interior Secretary Sally Jewell thanks a Golden Eagle hotshot firefighter from the Bureau of Indian Affairs
By Nadin Abbott
Photos by Nadin and Tom Abbott
May 8, 2014 (Spring Valley) The number of fires this year is higher than normal. Interstate 8 has closed due to fires twice already this year during the Gun Fire at Mount Laguna and the Jacumba fire just this week. Drought and climate change are key factors, officials warn—and this could be our worse wildfire season on record.
“The drought is expanding throughout the state of California” as well as the Southwest region, said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell during a Wildfire Awareness Week event at CAL FIRE Headquarters in Spring Valley on May 6th.
She cited a new report just issued by the White House, noting that climate change “increases the risk from drought.”
CAL FIRE Encourages Wildfire Preparedness and Prevention
May 8, 2014 (Sacramento) – Drought conditions have led to a significant increase in wildfire activity and to ensure Californians are ready, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. has declared May 4-10, 2014 as “Wildfire Awareness Week”. CAL FIRE is reminding residents during Wildfire Awareness Week of the dangers posed by wildfires and the simple steps that should be followed to prepare for and prevent them.
May 5, 2014 (Jacumba) A series of brush fires broke out on the side of the interstate about 4:30. The fire was initially reported as a single start, but soon it was clear that it was at least three starts. The fire is on the north side of Interstate eight half a mile east of McCain Valley Road.
May 2, 2014 (San Diego) -- Where you live in the City of San Diego affects how quickly emergency response teams can bring help to you when you need it, according to a report just issued by the 2013/2014 San Diego County Grand Jury.
Photos by Daren Sefcik, Jeff Holz, and Delia Cooley
May 3, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Multiple fires along I-8 broke out this morning between East Willows Road and Japatul this morning, as ourViejasAlerts reported earlier. The fires are believed to have been caused by a malfunctioning catalytic converter from a vehicle.
The largest forced closure of a viewpoint in Japatul and charred 12-14 acres.
May 1, 2014 (Spring Valley) – A brush fire along State Route 125 near Jamacha Boulevard in Spring Valley led to evacuations of several home along Elkelton Boulevard near Sweetwater Reservoir this afternoon.
The blaze charred about two acres and scorched a shed before firefighters brought it under control with help from a water-dropping helicopter. Animal Control was called to assist with pigs behind one of the homes, a witness stated.
April 29, 2014 (Sacramento)-- With gusty dry winds forecast for Southern California, CAL FIRE has increased its staffing and is urging the public to be extra cautious as fire danger heightens. The Weather Service has issued a Fire Weather Watch for many areas in Southern California starting Tuesday for high winds with gusts of 55 mph along with low humidity lasting through Thursday.
April 29, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)-- The day started with smoke in the far East County, near Jacumba on Old Highway 80. Cal Fire responded only to find a structure fire on the other side of the border fence. Per the incident commander, the structure was fully involved and crews remained on scene to make sure it did not pose a threat. Since the house had good clearance, there was no threat to vegetation, or the United States.
The second fire was in Ramona. It was a compost fire at Dye Street south of Ramona Street. It was extinguished in short order.
The third and most serious was near the Carlton Hills Golf Course in Santee. A parking lot at Carlton Hills Southern Baptist Church became the Incident Command Post for the blaze, which briefly threatened apartments nearby.
Update 5 p.m. A new fire is reported in the Carlton Hills area of Santee. For timely updates visit www.Twitter.com and follow ViejasAlerts. As of 5:30 p.m., 5 acres have burned in Santee from a blaze that started in the San Diego River bed. Forward spread was stopped at the Carlton Hills golf course with help from four helicopters droping water before the fire reached 125. Fences were burned but no structures were damaged. There were no injuries.
The Ramona fire has been extinguished.
April 29, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – A full wildland response by Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service has been ordered for a vegetation fire that reportedly began in a compost pile in Ramona. Heartland Fire is also on the scene.
April 26, 2014 (Mount Laguna) – Cal Fire and the federal government have not released reports on the official cause of the Chariot Fire, which scorched over 7,000 acres and destroyed more than 100 buildings including a historic lodge and the century-old Al Bahr Shrine Camp. Now attorney John Fiske, who represents fire victims, says he has filed a claim against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Just how effective is the new County Fire Authority at fire protection? While some areas have improved since the 2003 and 2007 wildfires,Craig Williams, an information technology specialist with Campo Fire Department shares shocking details on fire stations unmanned across our backcountry—and what could be done to keep rural residents safe.
- Golfers join Lakeside Firefighters to raise money to fund afterschool programs for East County youth -
April 15, 2014 (Lakeside)--On Tuesday, May 6, the Lakeside Firefighter’s Association will host the First Annual Lakeside Firefighters Golf Tournament at Cottonwood Golf Course benefitting Stoney’s Kids, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that funds programs that help East County children develop skills, self-esteem and confidence.
April 11, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) -- In 2007, when devastating wildfires ripped through San Diego County, John Hartman and his family were left without a home. But the fires took more than replaceable items; they also separated the family from their dog, Buddy.
Chaparral Institute objects to ordinance due to potential environmental impacts and possible abuse of citizens' rights
By Miriam Raftery
April 5, 2014 (San Miguel) San Miguel Fire Board meets on April 9 at 5:30 in the fire station at 2850 Via Orange Way in Spring Valley. This week the board will consider an ordinance allowing the board to declare waste and certain vegetation a public nuisance – including potentially the majority of native vegetation in the district.
Photos above: Sign amid charred terrain reads, "As these habitats recover from fire, a colorful variety of bird liife will return."
By Miriam Raftery
March 28, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – One month after a controlled burn at Cuyamaca sparked controversy, as ECM reported , the State Park Service has failed to answer any of our questions. Two elected officials have issued statements supportive of burn policies despite mature pines and cedars being torched in a park an estimated 99% of its mature pines to the 2003 Cedar Fire, which charred 95% of the entire park.
But new photos taken after the burn reveal that the fire also burned d15-foot-tall saplings planted after the Cedar Fire, foot bridges, and a “habitat restoration” area for wildlife replanted as part of reforestation efforts after the Cedar Fire.
Cal Fire has insisted that the burn did not jump out of control, though local cabin owner Craig Maxwell says a state park ranger told him it did. But if firefighters did not lose control of the burn, this raises an even more troubling question: Why would State Park officials charged with protecting our public parks order the destruction of some of the last remaining mature pines and cedars, as well as plantings established to replaced what burned in 2003?
Moreover, this region has also been decimated by oak-boring beetles that have killed thousands of trees locally, making protection of what remains even more critical.
March 24, 2014 (Spring Valley) - A new, primary Incident Command Vehicle is now in service within the San Miguel Fire District, thanks to an award from Barona and Sycuan Casinos. The $45,000 grant covered 68 % of the total vehicle cost. That cost included Required Code 3 Equipment, VHF & 800mgz Radios and Installation. The total cost of the Command Vehicle was $65,000. The remainder of the cost came from the District’s Vehicle Replacement fund.
March 24, 2014 (Alpine) - The San Diego County Fire Chiefs and the Viejas band of the Kumeyaay nation will be conducting their annual Fire Preparedness Exercise on April 3rd , 4th and 7th on the Viejas Indian reservation.
March 9, 2013 (East County)-- Multiple resources responded to a brush fire Sunday afternoon with multiple ignition sources locations at Highway 94 and Barrett Junction on Sunday. The blaze approximately an acre and had four start-up points, including one over an old burn.
Update March 9, 2014 -- The fire has burned 125 acres and is 30% contained according to the Incident page set up for the Gun Fire:http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3783/ . The wind advisory has been upgraded to a wind warning with gusts up to 70 mph on ridges possible.
March 8, 2014 (Mt Laguna) A fire that started around 1 p.m. in the afternoon in the Kitchen Creek area in Cleveland National Forest spread to 75-100 acres. The blaze was 5 percent containment by 4:40 p.m. with no estimate yet for full containment.
A wind advisory has been issued for tomorrow and ECM news partner 10 News reports that crews could be battling this fire for days. Sustained winds of 15-30 mph with gusts up to 55 mph are forecast.
Power is out to more than 500 residences in Japatul Valley, Buckman Springs, Morena Village, Guatay, Pine Valley and Mount Laguna due to a power shut off to protect firefightings working closer to powerlines. SDG&E estimates power will be restored at 5:30 a.m. Sunday.
Photo: View from Lyons Peak, looking east; WREN camera courtesy USCD
Update 3:35 p.m.: The fire is north of 8 and is now estimated between 75-100 acres and is 5% containued; evacuations have been lifted. The I-8 freeway is open; a hard closure is still in effect on Sunrise and Old 80 and Kitchen Creek area. SDG&E has shut power lines down due to fire burning close to the lines, so Mt. Laguna has no power right now. Powerlink is no longer considered threatened, per Wende Cornelius, USFS.
Update 2:55 p.m.: "We are evacuating Kitchen Creek and Cibbetts Flat in Cleveland National Forest," Wende Cornelius with CNF has informed ECM. Hikers and campers in the area are urged to leave. The fire is now 100 acres and due to high winds, some fixed wing aircraft have been temporarily grounded though helicopters continue doing water drops.
Sunrise Powerlink could be threatened, Cornelius stated, so be prepaerd for possible power outages. SDG&E is en route.
March 8,2014 (San Diego’s East County) – A brush fire on Sunrise Highway and Old Highway 80 has charred over 75 acres, IPN reports and aerial resources are on the scene, with a strike team positioningi in Pine Valley. Interstate is shut down from the Sunrise Highway exit to Buckman Springs, CHP reports. There is also a closure at Highway 79 just south of Lodge.
The fire is in the Cleveland National Forest and has been named the Gun Fire, due to its proximity to a shooting range. As of 2 p.m. there is a large header of smoke visible across East County.
IPN reported an earlier fire at State Routes 944 and 188 (Tecate Road). Multiple resources were dispatched to the fire which was estimated to have a potential of ten acres per the incident commander.
March 6, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – On March 4, the San Diego Rural Fire Protection District’s board majority voted to dissolve the district and join the County Fire Authority.
Board member Lou Russo (photo, left) voted against the action and says he intends to pursue a protest allowed under the Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO, that would require signatures from 25% of the district’s voters in order to put the matter on the ballot.
Russo said he views the County takeover of the district as “nothing more than a power grab.” He is also asking why residents in some Alpine areas did not receive a letter about the proposed action so that they could attend the meeting.
March 3, 2014 (San Diego): The Fire Safe Council of San Diego County, in partnership with the Resource Conservation District of San Diego County, is offering a free Defensible Space Assistance Program (DSAP) for low income seniors or disabled residents.
Source: Alpine Mountain Empire Chamber of Commerce
March 1, 2014 (Alpine)-- Fire benefit fees will increase by 1.1 percent this year in Alpine as a result of a 3-2 vote by the Alpine Fire Protection District Board. The increase would be about 71 cents a year for the average single-family dwelling and $1.80 annually for the average business to a total of $65.59 per home and $164 per business, according to district staff. Board members made the decision after their annual benefit fee review at their Feb. 18 meeting, when they also approved buying a new fire pumper with the help of a $127,802 Indian Gaming Local Community Benefit Grant.
February 28, 2014 (San Diego) -- A new Sheriff’s Department helicopter could serve double duty, helping both law enforcement and firefighters. The Bell 407 GX helicopter the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department wants to add to its aerial fleet could also support local fire departments with fire suppression efforts.
February 26, 2014 (Lakeside)-- Arriving at Blue Sky Ranch on January 16th, a team of 10 young adults from AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) began a 9-week service project. The team is working with Lakeside River Park Conservancy, Blue Sky Ranch and Silverwood Wildlife Sanctuary on various projects until their departure on March 20th.
February 26, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Readers across East County have sent photos and video of a large controlled burn yesterday in Rancho Cuyamaca State Park, voicing outrage over the burning of habitat including mature trees, given than 99% of the pine trees in the park burned during the 2003 Cedar Fire.
Questions have also been raised over why the burn was allowed in windy conditions, why a helicopters was dispatched to use water from Lake Cuyamaca on a controlled burn, and why more notice was not provided to the public and the press that a major controlled burn was underway by State Parks in conjunction with Cal Fire.
Local fire board member questions County Fire Authority’s reliance on Cal Fire in wake or ruling
By Miriam Raftery
A Superior Court judge has fined Cal Fire $32 million to cover legal bills for Sierra Pacific Industries after Cal Fire blamed a logger working for the company of causing a 2007 wildfire in Plumas County. Judge Leslie Nichols accused Cal Fire of “egregious and reprehensible conduct” including covering up evidence, lying, and engaging in “corrupt and tainted actions.”
Cal Fire had sought to recover its firefighting costs. But the case against Sierra Pacific was dismissed in July for lack of evidence and last week, the judge announced sanctions against Cal Fire.
February 5, 2014 (Jamul)—It was standing room only as Director Baldwin called the Rural Fire Protection District meeting to order in Jamul. In question was whether the Rural Fire District should dissolve and join the County Fire Authority. In phase three of the takeover, the County aims to absorb both the Pine Valley Fire District and the Rural Fire Protection District.
If the Rural District dissolves, the money that the County now puts into the District, to the tune of $3.6 million will continue. If the district does not dissolve, those funds will go away, and the district will only have the $1.6 million that it collects from residents. In effect, if the Fire District does not dissolve, it will have to reduce service and will only be able to staff the Jamul and Otay Stations, Director Dale Amato warned. The rest of the stations will have to go dark, or rely on volunteers—and there will be a significant degradation of fire protection service.