January 25, 2014 (Alpine) – Alpine residents, do you want to be prepared for a disaster in your community?
Alpine Fire Department is now accepting applications for its Community Emergency Response Team. The academy will begin March 1, 2014 from 9am-12pm every other Saturday for 10 sessions.
View video of groundbreaking
January 27, 2014 (Boulevard)--Drive 60 miles east of San Diego out Interstate 8 and you’ll reach Boulevard, a sparsely populated rural community of about 1,750 people. Your view will encompass manzanita trees and granite boulders, but no shopping malls or gleaming high rises. In fact, you won’t see a lot of newer buildings at all, and you won’t be surprised to learn the town’s fire station is a converted court office.
That last part won’t be true for long though. On Thursday, County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob joined County officials and community members to break ground on a new $3.5 million fire station, which will serve a 78-square-mile area.
January 22, 2014 (Dehesa) – Officials are investigating the cause of a white SUV found fully engulfed in fire on the morning of Tuesday, January 21.
“I am the resident that found the SUV while leaving for work. Fire was coming from the interior of the SUV with its windows rolled down part way,” Darin L. Wessel told ECM. The vehicle was pulled off Sloane Canyon Road at Model A Ford Lane, parked near trees and brush. Wessel took these photos after calling 911 and said the incident is being investigated as possible arson. “The conversations I overheard indicated there may have been a rag hanging out of the gas tank.”
January 20, 2014 (East County) A full brush response has been dispatched south of Community Building Rd near Dulzura. Fire crews are using Highway 94 to reach the area. According to the Incident Page Network this is a 1 acre brush fire with a slow rate of spread and no current structure threats.
A separate fire at Graves in El Cajon prompted by a vehicle striking a storage facility was upgraded to a second alarm but is now under control. SDG&E has been dispatched to the scene due to electrical damage. Due to the heavy smoke Fire requested Gillespie close down the landing strip briefly due to visibility issues.
A new fire is burning in Poway at Twin Peaks Road; a helicopter has been requested.
By Miriam Raftery
January 14, 2014 (San Diego's East County)--Are babies and children at risk of suppressed immune systems from wildfire smoke?
A new study at the University of Califiornia, Davis, suggests this could be the case.
The study was conducted by the University and by the California Air Resources Board. It looked at 25 young Rhesus Macaque monkeys born at the university’s Primate Research Center during summer of 2008, when smoke from over 2,000 fires that burned over a million acres drifted into the area. The monkeys born during the wildfires, and who were living outdoors, were found to have suppressed immune systems. Their blood samples were placed in tissue culture dishes, then exposed to disease pathogens—and showed reduced ability to generate immune responses to diseases than blood from 25 other monkeys born a year later.
SDG&E now offers critical weather page to look up conditions in your neighborhood
January 11, 2014 (San Diego's East County ) -- A red flag warning for a moderate to strong Santa Ana Wind event along with low humidity is expected Sunday evening through Wednesday afternoon for San Diego County. Wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour are likely with some isolated gusts of 65 mph on some ridge tops and canyons.
“Though Cal Fire has year round staffing in Southern California, these conditions warrant adding additional resources on for the duration of the red flag conditions that bring an elevated threat of wildfire," said Chief Dale Hutchinson, Cal Fire's Southern Region Chief. Cal Fire has placed additional firefighters on duty to staff extra equipment to augment normal staffing levels in the areas affected.
Cal Fire is asking everyone to be extra cautious during the heightened fire danger period in order to prevent wildfires. One less spark means one less wildfire. Be aware of the following activity restrictions and tips:
January 7, 2014 (Lakeside)--On January 19th, 2014, at 7:00 pm, the Lakeside Fire Protection District will take to the airwaves with the “Lakeside Emergency Net”. This new amateur radio net was developed to establish a working relationship between the Lakeside Fire Protection District and the amateur radio community throughout the East County area.
January 2, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)--During the past ten years, the U.S. Forest Service’s fleet of firefighting planes has dropped from 44 aircraft to just eight planes.
Now California’s Senator Dianne Feinstein has added language into the Defense Bill that would double the current fleet size to 16 planes – still far short of a decade ago.
By Miriam Raftery
January 1, 2014 (San Diego's East County) -- Governor Jerry Brown granted a Christmas Eve pardon to a firefighter who saved a teenager’s life during the Harris Fire in Potrero after suffering serious burns herself.
Brooke Linman had been convicted of firearms, drug and theft charges almost 20 years ago, but straightened her life out and began working as a firefighter in 2001. In 2007, her Cal-Fire crew was sent to help save homes in Potrero, where they helped evacuate Richard Varshock and his father, Thomas Varshock, who had been trying to defend their home against the firestorm. But the fire engine was overcome and caught fire, forcing them all to race on foot through a wall of flames.
Part II in our "Wind Fire" series
By Miriam Raftery
December 17, 2013 (Campo) – Yesterday’s explosion and brush fire sparked by a Gamesa wind turbine owned by Infigen at the Kumeyaay Wind facility in Campo, California has ignited new questions about the safety of wind turbines in this fire-prone region, where several of the worst wildfires in California history have previously scorched hundreds of thousands of acres.
In June, Infigen settled a lawsuit with Gamesa stemming from an earlier catastrophe at the same wind facility in 2009, when an explosive blast resulted in replacement of all 75 wind turbines, as ECM reported in an exclusive report. But now Boulevard Planning Group Chair Donna Tisdale reveals, “The 75 turbine blades from the 2009 catastrophic failure that you covered are still laying on the ground at the wind farm and are highly flammable.”
By Miriam Raftery and Nadin Abbott
Photos by Jim Pelley, Michael Kurtz, Jim Colby, J. Rummler
December 16, 2013 (Campo) – A wind turbine on a ridge overlooking the Golden Acorn Casino exploded today, sparking several spot fires in surrounding brush that collectively charred about a half an acre.
David Elliott, a Manzanita tribal member, lives about quarter of a mile from the wind facility on the neighboring Campo reservation. At first, he mistook the fire sounds for gusty wind. Then he walked outside and saw the turbine burning. “The turbine did start several spot fires,” he said. “If the wind had been coming from the northwest or west then my home, one of the closets homes to the turbines, would have definitely been in danger because we have brush on this side of the turbines and we would have had a major fire.” Hear audio of his interview with ECM: http://kiwi6.com/file/bk3qywd787
December 14, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – A red flag warning is in effect from noon Saturday through 6 p.m. Sunday due to high fire danger conditions including strong, gusty east/northeast winds, warmer temperatures and low humidity.
Winds of 15 to 30 miles per hour are forecast with gusts up to 65 possible in mountain passes.
By Ariele Johannson
December 9, 2013 (Crest) -- The hilltop town of Crest east of El Cajon was destroyed by the Laguna Fire in 1970, and again in the 2003 Cedar Fire, when over 300 homes were burned to the ground. There are 2,593 souls living in Crest in 967 households. Residents met in the Crest Community Center on November 20 to discuss fire prevention, evacuation concerns, and the state fire fee assessed again this year.
Hot items also on the agendas in Boulevard, Lakeside and Lemon Grove this week
By Miriam Raftery
December 1, 2013 (San Diego's East County)--San Diego Supervisors meet on Tuesday and Wednesday, December 3 and 4 at 9 a.m. The hottest item is a public hearing Tuesday on a county proposal to levy fees to recover the actual cost of services provided by the San Diego County Fire Authority including fire plan reviews, inspections and other technical work. In the past, such services have been provided to individuals and businesses without full cost recovery.
The Agenda does not state how much the proposed fees would be or how much revenue the county expects to raise. But coming on the heels of a statewide fire fee that is going up at year’s end, the proposal is likely to fuel controversy among taxpayers. The item is first on Tuesday’s agenda.
November 16, 2013 (Crest) -- In response to a community request, the San Miguel Fire District’s Board of Directors will hold a special meeting on Novemer 20, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. in the Crest Community Clubhouse, 113 North Park Drive in El Cajon.
East County Magazine's special report on the Cedar Fire, originally aired on KNSJ, is now online. Listen here: http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/pla2tx46jk/ECMShow11-1-13CedarFireSpecial-FINAL.mp3 (It may take a few moments to load, so please be patient).
Our editor, Miriam Raftery, covered the Cedar Fire back in 2003 for several publications and our own publisher, Mark Hanson, lost his home in Lakeside's Wildcat Canyon. Thus we were able to reconnect with a broad network of contacts to create our special report, which includes some never before told stories and interviews with fire survivors, firefighters and elected officials including Cal Fire Captain Mike Mohler, Lakeside resident Mark Hanson, Lakeside Fire Chief Andy Parr, burn survivor Rudy Reyes, Supervisor Dianne Jacob, San Diego Councilman Mark Kersey, Santee Councilman Brian Jones, retired Cal Fire Battalion Chief Mark Ostrander, Kathy Kassell, cofounder of the Cedar Fire Rebuild Resource Group, and other eyewitness stories from California’s worst wildfire ever.
We conclude with reflections on what’s changed since then, as well as a reading from The Fire Outside My Window by Lindra Millers Younger.
November 9, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – The Descanso Ranger District of the Cleveland National Forest will conduct prescribed burning from November 2013 to May 2014, if weather and fuel moisture conditions permit. The project will cover approximately 500-700 acres and will take place near the communities of Mount Laguna, Alpine, and Pine Valley.
The prescribed burns are for the purpose of assisting in providing community protection by slowing the spread of wildfires that occur under normal summer conditions as well as forest health. Some drifting smoke may be visible during the period of burning along Sunrise Highway, Japatul Road, and Interstate 8.
November 1, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- Hear dramatic eyewitness accounts, some never before told, from survivors of the Cedar Fire, firefighters who battled the blaze and saved lives, and elected officials sharing their memories of the worst wildfire in California's history. We've spent weeks compiling these special interviews, reflecting on the past as well as how far we've come -- and what is still needed to keep us safe before the next firestorm strikes.
Our one-hour special report will air today at 5 p.m. on KNSJ 89.1 FM, and again tomorrow at 9 a.m. Please tune in and sharet his information with your friends.
October 31, 2013 (San Diego’s East County)—Cal Fire is preparing for several days of extreme fire weather across many parts of the state, since the National Weather Service has issued five separate “Red Flag Warnings” and “Fire Weather Watches” due to gusty winds and low humidity. Cal Fire has placed additional firefighters on duty to staff extra equipment in the areas affected. ECM has left a message for Cal Fire's media relations department inquiring whether recently closed stations in East County will receive extra staffing and whether any rural fire stations will be closed during these high fire danger days.
By Miriam Raftery
Photos of anniversary event by Pam Wilmers and Miriam Raftery
October 27, 2013 (Lakeside) – “It started as a single flame in rugged, remote backcountry…The perfect alignment of extreme weather, fire weather and circumstances quickly transformed that flame into an enormously powerful and unstoppable force known as the Cedar Fire,” Lakeside firefighter Chuck Palmore said at yesterday’s 10-year anniversary of the Cedar Fire commemoration at the Lakeside Fire Station. The Cedar Fire touched the lives of thousands of people, he noted. “A decade later, we gather together here today to reflect and reconnect, to share with each other our journey that has taken us from victim to survivor to thriver.”
The Cedar Fire remains the worst wildfire in California's history in size (280,278 acres, or 438 square miles), buildings destroyed (2,820, including over 2,200 homes), and people killed(15). Of those who lost homes, most have rebuilt or moved on. But for the families of those who perished, the scars will forever remain.
Molly Sloan lost her daughter, a granddaughter, and her daughter-in-law. She and other family members came to this memorial service to display a photo montage in tribute to their loved ones’ memories.
By Nadin Abbott
Photos by Tom Abbott
October 25, 2013 (San Diego)—Today political leaders from San Diego City and the County came together with fire officials to remember the 2003 Cedar Fire. The press conference served as both a status report on our region’s ability to respond to the next emergency, as well as a memorial for the 15 San Diegans who died during the firestorm.
By Miriam Raftery
September 28, 2013 (Lakeside) – On the tenth anniversary of the Cedar Fire, community leaders and fire survivors will gather to dedicate a historic memorial commemorating the worst wildfire in California history. The ceremony will take place on October 26 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.at River Park Fire Station #2, 12216 Lakeside Avene in Lakeside, a community that suffered devastating losses when the firestorm trapped people caught unaware of the inferno raging during the fire's first night.
The event will also honor first responders and celebrate fire survivor families’ lifelong connection as guests pause to “reflect, remember and reconnect.” There will be exhibits, disaster prevention program information, book signings by Sandra Younger, author of The Fire Outside My Window, a VFW band, food and beverages, a moment of remembrance, and appreciation of community support.
Speakers will include Supervisor Dianne Jacob, Fire Chief Andy Parr, David Kassel from the Cedar Fire Rebuilding Resource Group, and Fire Chief Andy Parr. Presentations will be made from the offices of Senator Joel Anderson, Assemblyman Brian Jones, and Congressman Duncan Hunter.
Commemoration of the 2003 Cedar Fire ten-year anniversary will take place October 26 from 1-4 pm at the Crest Clubhouse in Crest.
The Crest Community Association is planning to mark the occasion with a commemorative event that will bring the community together to share their experience, thank those who helped Crest get back on its feet, and to learn how to be more prepared for any natural disaster.
October 18, 2013 (El Cajon) – A brush fire east of the El Cajon Boulevard offramp on Interstate 8 in El Cajon burned a half-acre yesterday. Heartland Fire and Rescue crews from El Cajon and La Mesa responded at 11:30 a.m., finding the fire slowly climbing an embankment near the freeway. Crews put the fire out in less than ten minutes. Trolley service was temporarily stopped as a precaution.
The cause of the fire has been listed as undetermined due to numerous possible ignition sources found along the embankment, such as lighters and cigarettes. In addition, there was a large amount of vegetation and numerous homeless encampments in this area.
October 18, 2013 (San Diego's East County ) -- San Miguel Fire District will hold two Open House events on Saturday October 19, 2013 in Spring Valley and El Cajon. The larger event will be at Station 15 in Spring Valley, a smaller event will be at station 18 for Crest and Bostonia Residents. Both events will run from 1 0 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Firefighters will interact with residents, provide station and Apparatus tours and provide tons of Safety information. Station 15 will include the use of a Children’s Fire Safety Trailer, for home safety and evacuation lessons, fire extinguisher training and much more.
The station locations are:
ECM Special Report reveals rural fire stations shut down for weeks, seriously under-staffed in peak fire season
By Miriam Raftery
October 10, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – An East County Magazine special investigation raises some burning issues and reveals that lives are at risk in rural East County areas.
Since the Cedar Fire a decade ago, our County has promised to improve fire protection by consolidating rural fire agencies into a County Fire Authority. But our report exposes glaring deficiencies--and asks some critical questions:
- Could a man who died at De Anza Resort in Jacumba Hot Springs have been saved if the two closest fire stations had not been closed, dramatically delaying emergency response time?
- Why was Boulevard’s fire station shut down for 28 days in August, 30 days in September, and at least the first seven days in October – during peak fire season?
- Why were both Boulevard and Jacumba Hot Springs fire stations unmanned on September 30, when a man found unconscious died after medical help took an hour or more to arrive, according to eyewitness accounts?
- Why haven’t funds promised by SDG&E to mitigate dangers from new energy projects been spent in the communities most at risk?
- Why, even when stations were open, were there only two-man crews which firefighting professionals say is inadequate for structure protection or rescues from a burning building?
- How many other stations across East County may be similarly short-staffed or closed?
Our investigation raises grave concerns about public safety, but so far, officials have not provided any satisfactory answers.
El Cajon's Fire Safety Expo Is October 12
October 6, 2013 (El Cajon) -- It’s all about safety at the annual El Cajon Fire Safety Expo on Saturday, October 12, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at 100 E. Lexington Avenue. This event celebrates Fire Prevention Week and brings to the community a wide variety of safety and health information.
Meet firefighters and police officers from the City of El Cajon and see Police & Fire K-9 demonstrations. Kiwanis Club of East San Diego County will be giving away free kids safety helmets (while supplies last), and Home Depot is back with their children’s safety workshop. See over 40 exhibits addressing important issues such as fire safety, disaster preparedness from the Office of Emergency Services and Heartland Fire & Rescue.
By Miriam Raftery
Photos by Deborah Horger, , Jeff Holz. Rebecca Jefferis Williamson and Imed Fehri and Alexis Parmnnoff
Update October 7, 2013 --SDG&E advises that the suspected cause of the outage is a faulted capacitor station. All power was restored by 1:30 p.m.; the outage began at 10 a.m. affecting 4,501 customers.
October 6, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- An SDG&E sky crane loaded with 2,500 gallons of water helped firefighters halt a brush fire in Lakeside at 28 acres. No structures were lost; mop-up activiites will continue through the night. The blaze began shortly after power went out to more than 4,500 customers for reasons that SDG&E's website indicated were unkown at the time of the outage; power has been fully restored.
Below are our earlier updates on this fire, which began at Aquilla Drive in Lakeside and sent smoke billowing forth that was visible across much of East County as well as Poway and San Diego.
Update 9 p.m. Sam DiGiovanna, our "Chief's Corner" columnist, sent us this report and photo: The fire has scorched 1,000 acres and is 15% contained. Approximately 230 residents were forced to evacuate a housing unit near Lake O'Neil base, officials said. Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton was not threatened by the fire, but a power outage prompted officials to evacuate about 30 patients to other hospitals in the area and stop accepting new patients.
Update 4:20 p.m. - Winds have subsided and SDG&E has restored power to all but two customers in the Descanso/Green Valley area.
By Miriam Raftery
October 5, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) has shut down power to 87 customers. The company’s website states, “An outage has been initiated to protect public safety.” A red flag alert and high wind warning are in effect.
"I remain extremely concerned that shutting off power jeopardizes the safety of communities and the availability of water for residents and firefighters. SDG&E has the statutory authority to cut off power only if there is an imminent threat to public safety," Supervisor Dianne Jacob posted on her Facebook page.