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 preotection 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.
Supervisors to hear proposal Tuesday urging fast transfer of planes for firefighting from Department of Defense to U.S. Forest Service
By Miriam Raftery
October 5, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Shut-down of the federal government over the spending bill impasse has caused furlough of 2,000 California National Guard technicians who maintain helicopters and cargo planes that respond to major wildfires statewide. Major General David Baldwin has said that “lives are at stake” because of these “inane cuts and work stoppages,” the SF Gate reported.
“The federal government needs to grow up, settle its budget mess and remember one of its primary obligations – public safety,” Supervisor Dianne Jacob told East County Magazine. “Any furloughs or other cutbacks that undermine aerial firefighting would be a major concern, especially as our region approaches the most dangerous stretch of the wildfire season.”
On Tuesday, Supervisors will hear a proposal by Supervisors Jacob and Greg Cox asking the U.S. Department of Defense to transfer seven surplus C-27 aircraft to the U.S. Forest Service to bolster firefighting resources in San Diego County and other areas.
October 4, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – SDG&E has notified East County Magazine’s Viejas Alerts that proactive power outages are possible due to high fire danger conditions. A Red Flag Alert is in effect today through Sunday and a high wind watch has also been issued.
Make sure you have flashlights and portable radio with batteries to stay informed during a power outage. This is also a good time to sign up to follow ViejasAlerts at www.twitter.com so you can get text message alerts on your mobile phone. If you have internet access you can also check our website for reports on fires at www.eastcountymagazine.org .
“We expect the highest winds between 4 a.m. and noon Saturday,” Stephanie Donovan, spokesperson for SDG&E, informed ECM. Gusts of 50 to 70 miles an hour are expected in some places.
The utility has made outbound calls to 5600 customers warning of possible power shut-offs in the following areas: Descanso, Mt Laguna, Viejas, Barrett Lake, East Jamul, Potrero, East Ramona, San Diego Country Estates, some portions of Santa Ysabel and North Wynola and Wynola, Japatul, Boulevard, Valley Center and Lake Wohlford. Click "read more" and scroll down for details.
By David Ross
A special joint investigation by East County Magazine and Valley Center Press into the county takeover of rural fire districts
PART II in a series
October 3, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- Recently a volunteer fire chief in the Backcountry wrote this (pun intended) inflammatory conclusion about the level of preparedness at his rural department: “The _____ currently is at a dangerously low staffing level that is putting current firefighters, residents and visitors in danger.”
The name of the organization is left out (it is revealed later below), because it is a generic statement that might very easily apply to several communities in San Diego County’s rural unincorporated area.
By Nadin Abbott
October 3, 2013 (San Diego) As we noted in an earlier article, we approached the County about a disturbing trend we found of shelters not being open after they were announced as shelters during emergencies:
After presenting our concerns to the Supervisors, we followed through with the County and did a public records request for correspondence or other records regarding the shelters found closed.
READERS EDITORIAL: SOUNDING THE ALARM AS COUNTY BREAKS PROMISES FOR FIRE PROTECTION IN RURAL EAST COUNTY
By Howard W Cook, Jacumba Hot Springs Sponsor Group Chair
September 30, 2013 (Jacumba) -- When the Jacumba Hot Springs Community showed up to attend The Real East County Fire Safe Council(Ken Daubach, President) tonight 09/30/2013 at the Jacumba Hot Springs Fire station, the station was completely dark. Shutdown as it has been frequently in the past month. Likewise, Boulevard Fire Station was also dark tonight as it has been for most of the past several months.
Yet, in the EIR's for all of the recent electrical projects, Eco at Jacumba and the Boulevard substation as well as the Tule wind farm project the Fire Dept. establishment promised 24/7 coverage.
East County doesn't know who in the Fire establishment they can trust.
We had an medical emergency today out at De Anza Resort(probably a fatality). Eventually the station at White Star responded after an hour.
By Janis Mork
October 3, 2013 (San Diego)- At its September 11 meeting, the Board of Supervisors received an update from the Office of Emergency Services (OES) on how the department is better preparing San Diego for the 2013 fire season. The board also learned steps to keep those with special needs safe and what caregivers can do.
Supervisor Dave Roberts, a former firefighter, spoke first. “ I have tremendous respect for fire fighters…[to] take care of the vulnerable population.” He thanked the OES for its efforts and said he is pleased to be moving the item forward. “This will help get caregivers more assistance.. It’s my hope that today everyone will leave with a better understanding of being prepared.”
Photo by Donnie Durfee
September 29, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – A brush fire charred approximately 10 acres yesterday afternoon near Highway 94 and the border checkpoint, the Deerhorn Valley Antler reports. Multiple firefighting agencies swiftly responded, along with helicopters to douse the blaze, dubbed the Pink Fire. No structures were burned.
September 27, 2013 (San Diego's East County)--The National Weather Service today issued a Red Flag Warning due to high winds, dry brush and increased fire danger in San Diego County. The Red Flag Warning will be in effect from 12 p.m. Friday, September 27 through 6 p.m. Saturday, September 28 for the following communities: Ramona, Valley Center, Fallbrook, Escondido, El Cajon, Alpine, Potrero, Campo, Santa Ysabel, Descanso, Julian, Ranchita, and Warner Springs.
“Firefighting agencies throughout the state will be on high alert this weekend,” said Cal Fire Captain Mike Mohler. “This is the first Red Flag Warning of what is shaping up to be one of the most challenging fire seasons in many years. High winds can turn a spark into a devastating wildfire in just minutes, so we’re calling on San Diegans to be extremely vigilant in the high fire-risk areas of the county.”
During the Red Flag Warning, Cal Fire urges all Californians to exercise extreme caution outdoors in order to prevent wildfires. A few helpful reminders and fire prevention tips include:
Photos by Tamar Carter
September 26, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Three fires burning in East County have now charred a total of 40 acres. All three started off I-8 at Dunbar Lane in Alpine, Greenfield Drive in El Cajon, and Los Coches in the Lakeside/El Cajon area.
“Forward spread is stopped,” Mike Mohler with Cal Fire told East County Magazine at 7:45 p.m. “Residents should be informed that there are still open fire lines and engine lines will remain in the area through probably mid-day tomorrow.”
No evacuation orders are currently in place and residents have been allowed back home, he added. Earlier, 10 news reported some residents on Lotus Lane had been advised to evacuate. No structures have been damaged.
September 26, 2013 (San Diego's East County) --Fires are burning off I-8 at Dunbar Lane in Alpine, Greenfield in El Cajon, and Los Coches Road behind Vons in the Lakeside/El Cajon area. The first blaze began about 5:30. 10 News has a live video http://www.10news.com/video/live_video.
An eyewitness told 10 News that as she passed Greenfield, she saw a string of small flames popping up. She said she got repeated busy signals trying to call 911.
"Right now the total acreage is around 30 acres," Mike Mohler of Cal-Fire reported. "Firefighters are making good progress but we still have a long way to go." Homes are threatened and residents have been advised to leave some homes on Lotus Lane. Mohler said authorities are investigating the possibility of arson, or a vehicle malfunction.
By Tom Lemon
September 24, 2013 (Santa Ysabel) – Inaja. I always stop at the site when I drive through Santa Ysabel. I'll buy some bread and a sandwich at Dudley's and take in the view and watch the cars and motorcycles speeding by on Highway 79. The Inaja Memorial Picnic Site is a picnic/day use area operated by the USFS to honor eleven men who died while fighting a fire on November 25, 1956.
WINE TASTING SEPT. 29 TO HELP RE-OPEN SIERRA CLUB'S FOSTER LODGE, REBUILD CABIN LOST IN CHARIOT FIRE
September 22, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – The Sierra Club invites the public to a benefit to raise funds for rebuilding a cabin lost in the Chariot Fire on July , and to celebrate the fact that the historic Foster Lodge survived the wildfire on Mount Laguna. While there was insurance coverage, the Chapter needs to raise funds to offset a $10,000 deductible and other costs not covered to get the lodge reopened for business.
By Nadin Abbott; editor Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report
Photo credti: UCSD's HPWren webcam atop Lyon's Peak
An advisory evacuation clearly means that authorities believe those homes are at risk of burning. But by not opening shelters-- or closing shelters unannounced in the middle of an emergency--officials are sending a disturbing signal: If you leave now, you’re on your own.
September 10, 2013 (San Diego) East County Magazine has encountered disturbing issues with emergency shelters found closed during three major evacuations in the past two months alone. How many other times has this have occurred—and what can be done to better protect residents during disasters? Today, we brought the issue to the County Board of Supervisors at a public hearing.
Photos by Billy Ortiz
September 11, 2013 (San Diego) -- San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has renewed agreements with the County and City of San Diego and firefighting agencies to make a heavy-lift air-crane available to support fire suppression efforts during fire season again this year.
With the Erickson Air-Crane back in San Diego and ready for action, any fire agency with legal responsibility and authority to suppress wildland fires may request support of the helitanker to respond to a fire incident. The 70-foot-long air-crane can be dispatched by San Diego Fire-Rescue Department to a fire in 20 minutes with as much as 1,000 gallons of water at takeoff and can release up to 2,500 gallons in a single water drop.
September 11, 2013 (Jamul) -- UCSD's HP Wren webcam on Lyons Valley peak images have been combinedi n a fascinating time-lapse video.
Photo, left: Lyons Valley fire, Jamul, by Leslie Yoder
Photo, lower right: UCSD's HPWren webcam atop Lyon's Peak
Update September 10, 2013, 8 a.m. – The Lyons Fire has charred 450 acres and is 15 percent contained. No structures have been lost. Rain overnight brought help to firefighting efforts.
Lyons Valley Road is closed between Japatul and Honey Springs and will remain closed for most of the day. Skyline Truck Trail is closed between Honey Springs and Skyline Spur; Skyline Spur is the alternate route, the Deerhorn Valley Antler advises.
Update 6:30 p.m. - Residents in Lyons Valley are being escorted back to their homes this evening, the Sheriff's media line has advised ECM. ECM reporter Nadin Abbott advised the school that was listed by the Sheriff and County Emergency Services as an evacuation site is now closed. The fire has charred 250 acres and is 10% contained.
Update 4 p.m. The Potrero Fire is 100% contained at 5 acres, Cal Fire reports. No structures were damaged but one burn injury was reported. Lyons Fire in Jamul is 225 acres, Cal Fire confirms. Deerhorn Valley Antler editor reports all roads in Four Corners area are closed. Firefighters are concerned fire could move into Lawson Valley. SDG&E is evaluating risk to Sunrise Powerlink.
MEASURE TO AID VULNERABLE RESIDENTS IN EMERGENCIES, REPORT ON DISATER PREPAREDNESS ON SUPERVISORS’ AGENDA TUESDAY
By Miriam Raftery
September 8, 2013 (San Diego) – After visiting the Rim Fire (photo, left) to learn more about large-scale disaster responses, Supervisor Dave Roberts announces he is introducing emergency preparedness legislation on Tuesday, September 10, along with Supervisor Ron Roberts.
“Our initiative seeks to assist our most vulnerable residents in the event of a disaster,” said Dave Roberts in a newsletter to constituents. Also on Tuesday, the County’s Office of Emergency Services will update Board members on community preparedness and improvements made since the 2007 firestorms as the height of fire season approaches.
Vulnerable residents include those with physical, cognitive or emotional disabilities. A survey by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found a staggering 26 percent of San Diego County residents report they are disabled due to a physical, mental or emotional condition. A 2009 survey asked if people were prepared for a major disaster and among those who replied “not prepared, 30.3% said they were disabled. County records also list 25,000 individuals who need a personal care assistant to be independent.
Update 3:30 p.m.: Power has been fully restored to all residents.
By Miriam Raftery
September 7, 2013 (Borrego Springs) – Severe weather knocked out power yesterday afternoon ito 2700 SDG&E customers in Borrego Springs and nearby communities. An estimated 760 households remain without power today in Borrego and Shelter Valley as temperatures climb to triple digits.
SDG&E estimates power will be restored at 7 p.m. “Currently, we have restored some emergency power to a portion of the community. This has enabled the county to open a cool zone at the library on Palm Canyon Drive,” an SDG&E advisory sent to residents advises.
“There was hardly anyone in town, no gas, can’t pump with no power,” Borrego resident Bob Kutscher informed ECM this morning.
Update: The fire is now out but the roadway remains flooded and there are many other hazards. Lightning strikes are reported in the Warner Springs area and other locations including the bolt shown at left, taken by Bob Kutscher. This strike apparently ignited the fire, with smoke visible on a second image moments later shot from Borrego.
September 6, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – A fire truck en route to a fire reported in the Scissors Crossing area near Julian has become stuck in the mud. Highway S2 is shut down from State Route 79 to S 22 and a Sig Alert has been issued. The fire truck initially became stuck after encountering a road washed out by flooding at 79 en route to Montezuma, according to the California Highway webpage. Smoke is also reportedly visible form Vista Point; it is unclear if this is the same fire.
On Mt. Laguna, mudslides are reported on Sunrise Highway between I-8 and mile marker 18; Cal Trans is responding. Rockslides are also occurring on Old 80, the National Weather Service reports. In the desert, downed powerlines are reported on Rango Way and Borrego Valley Road.
A flash flood warning remains in effect until 430 p.m. for Southeastern San Diego County.Shortly before 3 p.m. National Weather service Doppler radar continued to indicate moderate to heavy rain in the area from Cuyamaca Peak to Campo. Storm spotters reported flooded roads in Pine Valley. Locations in the warning include but are not limited to Morena Village, Potrero, Campo, Descanso, Cuyamaca Peak, Highway 79, Sunrise Highway, Tierra del Sol and Interstate 8. A flash flood watch remains in effect across many other areas, along with a high heat warning.
RIM FIRE IN YOSEMITE NOW 4TH WORST IN STATE’S HISTORY, BUT SAN DIEGO FIRESTORMS' DEVASTATING TOLL NOT LIKELY TO BE TOPPED
By Miriam Raftery
September 1, 2013 (Yosemite) --The Rim Fire burning in Yosemite National Park has charred over 225,000 acres. Smoke this weekend drafted into Yosemite Valley as more than 5,000 firefighters continue to battle the blaze. Investigators have not yet determined the cause, but illegal marijuana growing operations are suspected. The fire is 45 percent contained, but thousands of homes remain threatened and 11 homes have burned, along with the Berkeley Tuolumne Camp. (For details, see: http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/pub/cdf/images/incidentfile889_1195.pdf
Cal Fire now ranks the Rim Fire as the fourth worst wildfire in California history, based on acreage burned nearly 225,000 acres. The fire could potentially surpass the 2003 Cedar Fire, which burned over 273,000 acres and remains our state’s worst wildfire ever in sheer size. But The Rim Fire is not likely to surpass the Cedar Fire in two other measurements of its disastrous scale. The Cedar Fire still holds the record of causing the most deaths—14, and burning the most structures – 2,820. Moreover, the collective toll of the 2007 wildfires here was even larger.
By Walt Meyer
September 3, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) -- For people in East County, it’s no secret that fire season is upon us. But at any time here in earthquake country, we can experience other sorts of disasters—and we should use the start of fire season as a reminder to check our emergency kits. As many who lived through the great fires of 2003 and 2007 know too well, there is often not time to think or plan, let alone pack once the fire is coming over the hills. And certainly with an earthquake there will be no advance warning.
UPDATE September 3, 2013: The Medical Examiner has identified the deceased shooter as Lionel Silva II. At 2:16 a.m. the Sheriff sent an advisory that a robot confirmed the shooter is dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot. Most of Grandview has been reopened to residents only, with the exception of Grandview Peak and Angel's Terrace. Murdock School, which was used as a command post, will be open for classes. Below is our earlier report.
By Miriam Raftery
September 2, 2013 (Mt. Helix) – A SWAT team standoff with a suspect who reportedly fired up to 200 rounds in all directions from inside a home at 9952 Grandview Drive on Mt. Helix continues tonight. A Sheriff's advisory indicates the suspect, 47, is believed to be armed with a rifle, a shotgun and two handguns.
September 2, 2013 (La Posta) - A 20-acre brush fire is burning in the La Posta area that started off I-8 at the Kitchen Creek offramp. The fire is believed to be caused by lightning; multiple lightning strikes have occurred in the area.
Air attack and choppers 10 and 12 are on scene and rain is falling, according to posts on the Brush Fire Partyline. Firefighting units are staging at Boulder Oaks Campground.
In addition, a power outage has occurred that is impacting portions of Dulzura, Potrero, Campo, Japatul Valley, Buckman Springs, Morena Village,, Live Oak Springs, Boulevard, Jacumba. SDG&E is working to determine the cause.
By Miriam Raftery
Update 7:20 p.m. - Sheriff media rep advises Red Cross will be making arrangements for displaced residents overnight. Check back for details on where a shelter will be set up.
Update 6 p.m. - The stand-off continues. We heard shots repeatedly at our home. Channel 8 reports more than 200 shots have been fired in all directions.
September 2, 2013 (Mt. Helix) -- A gunman armed with a high-powere rifle has fired shots inside a home in the 9900 block of Grandview on Mt. Helix. The Sheriff has made reverse 911 calls advising residents within a one mile radius to shelter in place with windows covered. Some homes have been evacuated but deputies are unable to go door to door for evacuations because they would be exposed to fire, according to a Sheriff's notice to media.
The fiancé of the 47-year-old man holed up inside the house told deputies they had an argument and the man threatened to hurt her and himself. The man had been drinking, authorities report. When deputies arrived on scene and tried to contact the suspect, the man threatened to kill the deputies. A few seconds later, shots were fired inside the house. Deputies immediately backed out of the house. Three other people inside the house got out safely and no one has been harmed as of 2:50 p.m.; deputies did not fire a shot, according to the Sheriff..
A SWAT team has been called in and a stand-off is occurring as negotiators try to get the suspect to surrender. A Sheriff dispatcher advised ECM editor Miriam Raftery, who lives within the perimeter established, that the gunman has a high powered rifle. A neighbor told 10 News that at least 10 or 15 shots were heard.