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.
August 17, 2013 (Julian) -- Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District invites the public to an open house at the Julian Fire Station on Saturday, September 28 from 10-4 p.m. The station is located on Farmers Road (which becomes Main Street) just east of Julian's historic downtown district.
Guests can enjoy games, firefighters' competitions, food, music in the park, demonstrations, as well as tours of the station, trucks, ambulance and helicopter. The event also offers home fire prevention supplies, injury simulation ocmplete with makeup and "treatment" by paramedics, and chance to win four raffle packages.
August 29, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – A flash flood watch has been issued for mountains, valleys and desert areas in San Diego’s East County and other areas in southwestern California. The watch is in effect for this afternoon through 10 p.m. this evening.
Slow-moving thunderstorms are expected to produce very heavy rainfall with flash flooding. Debris flows are possible in and below areas burned by recent wildfires.
August 28, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- A flash flood warning is in effect until 4:15 p.m. for east central San Diego County. Heavy rain and thunderstorms are occurring in and around the Chariot Fire burn area.
Doppler radar estimates up to 0.6 inches of rain has fallen in the burn area in about 30 minutes this afternoon. This is well in excess of U.S. G.S. thresholds for debris flows from this burn scar. Roads, trails and campgrounds located along drainages within or below the burned basins can be impacted by flash floods and debris flows. This includes areas along Highway S-2 and the great Southern Overland Stage route as wel as the Butterfield Ranch area.
By Billy Ortiz
August 20, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – A brush fire broke out this afternoon in the 1300 block of Aurora Drive in El Cajon close to Lakeside. The blaze started on an open space preserve and swiftly spread, threatening homes.
Some homes were evacuated, but fortunately a 100-foot fire break along the eastern edge of the preserve helped stop the fire from advancing closer to homes.
By Nadin Abbott; photo by Jeff Holtz
August 18, 2013 (San Diego)—The San Diego County Fire Authority has released a Master Strategic Plan for the next five years. The plan became effective on July 1, 2013 and will remain such until June 30, 2018. You can read the plan here: http://bosagenda.sdcounty.ca.gov/agendadocs/doc?id=09010e9680174b28.
Update 12:35 p.m.: The fire's spread has been stopped at 6 acres, Cal Fire reports.
Photos by Kristin Kjaero, Elizabeth Gallway, Gloria Duncan and Jeff Holtz
August 17, 2013 (Lakeside) - A five-acre brush fire is burning in Lakeside. The blaze, reported at 11:36 a.m., is near Los Coches Road and Interstate 8 and is spreading at a moderate rate, Cal Fire reports.
An important meeting is set for Wednesday night, August 14 on the future of fire service in the Rural Fire Protection district, which serves many communities in East County.
The County Fire Authority is threatening to withdraw all fire service funding if the San Diego Rural Fire Protection District chooses to remain an independent fire district and not merge with the County Fire Authority.
If the district remains independent, funding will revert back to 207 levels—with no stipend pay for firefighters for rural stations, according to a letter sent by the district’s fire board to residents. SD Rural Fire_important-letter .
August 6, 2013 (San Diego)-- The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday moved to ensure that low-risk prisoners remain on the front lines of backcountry firefighting.
By unanimous vote, the board authorized county staff to complete an agreement with state officials that would house qualified inmates at local fire camps operated by the state. The move came at the urging of Supervisor Dianne Jacob, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Sheriff Bill Gore and county Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer.
August 4, 2013 (Boulevard) -- A body has been found by firefighters inside a burned two-story resident at 2071 Ross Avenue in Boulevard. A full wildland response was ordered for the fully engulfed residential fire earlier this evening, due to concerns it could burn into nearby brush.
The blaze started on Ross Avenue just south of Highway 80, about a mile south of I-8.
At 9:07 p.m., Boulevard Planning Group Chair Donna Tisdale advised ECM, "I spoke to a Ross Avenue property owner whose tenant reported one structure, several houses down the block, has almost burned to the ground, and about a dozen fire trucks are on scene and seem to have stopped the fire spread for now."
August 1, 2013 (San Diego's East County) - A brush fire is burning at Iron Mountain as of 3:15 p.m., forcing shut-down of Highway 67 between Scripps Poway Parkway and Poway Road due to billowing smoke. CHP's website indicates they expect the fire to be put out quickly, but avoid the area.
July 29, 2013 (Bonita) -- A brush fire is burning at 7152 San Miguel Road in the vicinity of State Routes 125 and 54. Structures and power lines are at risk. The fire is now 10 acres, burning uphill on San Miguel Mountain. Fire is underneath high-voltage power lines, scanner traffic indicates.
Photo by Miriam Raftery
July 28, 2013 (La Mesa)--A brush fire came dangerously close to homes in La Mesa today, forcing shut-down of lanes on State Route 125.
The blaze started when a vehicle fire spread into the brush along the shoulder of southbound 125 near Lemon Avenue. Heartland Fire crews found a hillside had caught fire and was swiftly spreading toward homes, fueled by windy conditions.
Update: This fire was contained after scorching approximately 25 acres.
July 28, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- A SIG ALERT has been issued due to a fast-moving brush fire that is now 25 to 30 acres. Highway 94 is closed from Otay Lakes to State Route 188 in the Barrett Junction area. In addition, the Tecate border crossing is closed, CHP reports.
A full wildland response has been ordered including air tankers for the blaze, named the Flume Fire, Cal Fire reports. Aerial fire retardant drops are slowing the rate of spread. No structures are threatened at this time.
July 24, 2013 (Mount Laguna) – County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk Ernest Dronenburg is advising all property owners whose property was damaged or destroyed during the recent Chariot Fire that property tax relief is available.
This tax relief program requires the reassessment of the property to reflect its damaged condition. The reduced value will remain in effect until such time as the property is rebuilt or repaired. More importantly, after the property is rebuilt or repaired, the owners can retain their previous taxable value if the property is rebuilt in a like or similar manner. This means that the property tax assessment will not increase beyond what it was prior to the fire.
By Miriam Raftery
July 23, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – A lawsuit challenging fire parcel fees was heard Friday in Sacramento Superior Court. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association sued the State of California, arguing that fire parcel fees assessed on taxpayers in state responsibility areas should be considered taxes, not fees.
A two-thirds majority vote of the State Legislature is required to pass a new tax, though this requirement does not apply to fees.
The State had argued that the Jarvis group did not have standing to represent taxpayers in the class action lawsuit, but the judge disagreed, ruling that the Jarvis organization does have legal standing. The state has 10 days to file a response to the ruling.
Photo by Tom Lemon
On Friday, August 9, the Rising from the Ashes fundraiser will be held to cover cleanup costs of the Shrine Camp on Mount Laguna, which was devastated by the Chariot Fire.
The Al Bahr Shrine Center in San Diego will host the event from 5 to 11 p.m. in the Red Fez Room at the Al Bahr Shrine Center, 5440 Kearny Mesa Road in San Diego. The event, which costs $20 will include dinner and entertainment.
The camp lost 23 buildings to the fire, including the Shriners’ 99-year-old lodge.
By Paul Kruz
July 18, 2013 (El Cajon)--The arraignment of a man arrested by San Diego Sheriffs deputies on suspicion of arson and other associated crimes Sunday night has been continued until July 24 in Department 2 of El Cajon Superior Court. Dane Coburn is accused of intentionally setting a fire that charred five acres of brush on State Route 79 near the Los Vaqueros Horse Camp in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park last week.
Coburn, represented by legal counsel, is also accused of threatening to kill one of the firefighters who first responded to the blaze. He then allegedly provoked a fight with several deputies before being subdued. His attorney requested the continuance on the grounds that Coburn needed access to a mental health professional for an evaluation prior his arraignment. Coburn is being held in San Diego County Jail in lieu of $75,000 bail.
The defendant has been charged with arson of forest lands, assault on an officer, making terrorist threats, resisting arrest, and of being under the influence of drugs.
Update: A reader in the area informed ECM at 10 p.m. he can no longer see flames and it appears firefighters have the blaze under control.
July 14, 2013 – AT 9:04 p.m., Incident Page Network reports scanner traffic indicates a new brush fire at Highway 79 and Sunrise Highway is now two acres, burning in moderate fuel near Los Vaqueros Horse Camp.
The CHP website indicates fire is near Stonewall Road and Horse Camp not far from Lake Cuyamaca. CHP's site also states that the San Diego Sheriff is out with a “5150” (mental case) party possibly responsible for the fire.
The Chariot Fire perimeter, in red, and the evacuation area shown in purple
July 12, 2013 (San Diego’s East County)--Damage assessment teams are combing through the charred remains today of the Al Bahr Shrine Campground area off Sunrise Highway in Mt. Laguna. CAL FIRE estimates 149 structures were damaged or destroyed when the Chariot Fire suddenly surged forward on Monday. The fire is now 98% contained, after charring 7,055 acres.
An important tip for residents returning to fire-damaged properties is to contact your insurance carrier before beginning clean-up efforts and consider using a professional contractor to avoid any potential hazards.
By Nadin Abbott
July 11, 2013 (Mount Laguna) –Amid the devastation on Mount Laguna, one ironic symbol stands out: a flag flying at half-mast. Flown to honor the Prescott Arizona Hot Shot crew that perished at the Yarnell fire, the flag at the Al Bahr Shrine Camp survived the Chariot blaze, while much of the camp was reduced to ashes.
As of 6 p.m. last night, Sunrise Highway was reopened at both old Highway 80 and Highway 79, though it remained shut down from Los Huecos Road (milepost 24.5) in Mt Laguna, to Kwaaymii Point ( milepost 30). The fire has burned over 7,000 acres and is 70 percent contained.
First responders assess the damage
“It makes me very sad,” Lieutenant Rose Kurupas with the San Diego Sheriff’s office said of the devastation. But she resolved, “These are good people, they’ll rebuild. You’ll see, it will be better than ever.”
Photo by Kenneth Douglas
July 11, 2013 (Mount Laguna) -- Mandatory evacuations for all areas south of Los Huecos Road were lifted today as of 6:00 p.m., with the Chariot Fire now 65 percent contained. Evacuation orders remain in effect on Los Huecos Road and North to Kwaaymii Point.
The wildfire has charred 7,055 acres, Cal Fire estimates, causing seven injuries. Full containment is projected for July 14.
HISTORIC LODGE AT SHRINE CAMP, SIERRA CLUB’S FOSTER LODGE CABIN AMONG 108 BUILDINGS DESTROYED IN CHARIOT FIRE
ECM reporters allowed inside evacuation area to assess damage
By Nadin Abbott; photos by Nadin and Tom Abbott
July 9, 2013 (Mt. Laguna)— For owners of property on Mount Laguna, the past 24-hours have been heart-wrenching. The Chariot Fire has reportedly destroyed 108 structures along Sunrise Highway, including the Al Bahr Shrine Camp and one lost at the Sierra Club Guymon Lodge. The blaze has scorched over 7,055 acres and is now 40 percent contained. Highway 79 is open but Sunrise Highway remains closed from 79 to I-8.
Peering through thick smoke late yesterday at the Shrine Camp site (photo, left), we saw a husk of burnt metal and the charred remains of other structures. We later learned that losses included the 87-year-old lodge and a dozen or more cabins.
By Miriam Raftery
July 9, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- Our readers have sent some dramatic images of the Chariot Fire, which as of tonight has scorched 4,850 acres and burned at least eight buildings.
Here are some of the most stunning images from our readers--and thanks to the many of you who sent in photos and news tips on this major story. (Note, additional photos were used in our earlier stories on this fire, all in our wildfire news section.)
Jim Pelley shot the photo, left, taken at sunset in Ocotillo.
Update July 8, 2013 -- 9 p.m.: The fire, now 4,850 acres and 15% contained, has jumped across Surnise Highway. ECM has confirmation from multiple sources including an eyewitness report from our reporter Nadin Abbott at the scene that a structure has burned at Sierra Lodge and that Shrine Camp has also burned.
Mt. Laguna is evacuated along the entire Sunrise Highway and an evacuation center, closed earlier, is now reopen at Joan McQueen Middle School, 2001 Tavern Road in Alpine. Dark smoke is billowing over the mountains at Descanso and Pine Valley; residents across these areas and Cuyamaca are advised to stay alert and informed.
Story and photos by Nadin Abbott
July 7, 2013 (Mt Laguna)—Crews from all over Southern California, including Kern, Orange, Los Angeles and San Diego County are fighting the Chariot fire. This fire is now at 2500 acres and 20% contained.
Many of these hand crews include hot shot crews. According to Rosanne Grier, Cal Fire Public Information Officer trainee and Fire Fighter One, “There are no structure threats at this time. There was an old historical cabin, they had crews in place to try to protect; I don’t believe that it is still at threat at this point.”