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.”
Photo left: View at start of fire from Sunrise Highway; photo by Erik Johnson
Update 4:30 p.m. -- The fire is now 2,500 acres. An evacuation center is now open at Joan McQueen Middle School, 2001 Tavern Road in Alpine. The fire is now just one mile from communication towers on Monument Peak, including the new KNSJ 89.1 FM station's transmitter.
Update 12:30 p.m. -- Pine Hills Cafe and Tavern has sent an email advising that there are now mandatory evacuations for the following sites: Shrine Camp, Laguna/ElPrado Campgrounds, & Horse Heaven Campground, and for two private properties. The town is not evacuated, however, at this time and the cafe remains open for business.
July 7, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- The Chariot Fire, which began yesterday near the Butterfield Ranch, is now 1,700 acres, according to estimates by air attack pilots. Cal Fire officially lists the fire size at 1400 acres as of 8:45 a.m. The fire is still only 10 percent contained and could burn for days, scanner traffic indicates.
The fire is burning nine miles southeast of Julian. Sunrise Highway on Mount Laguna reopened briefly after yesterday's shut down, but a hard closure has again been ordered from Highway 79 to Pine Valley. Voluntary evacuations of cabins and the Shriners campground have occurred as the fire burned into the canyon below the campground. A structure protection team has been assembled.
The fire is now under joint command of the U.S. Forest Service and Cal-Fire as it burns into Cleveland National Forest. Firefighters have been contending with shifting winds and some have been treated for heat exhaustion.
See our new story with many more updates here: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/13562
Photo left: View from Mason Valley near Butterfield Ranch, by Brett Stallbaum
Update July 6, 2013 5:00 p.m. -- The fire is now 500 acres and Cal-Fire has entered into a unified command with the U.S. Forest Service. The blaze is burning approximately nine miles east of Julian. Firefighters have been dispatched to scene from Riverside for mutual aid.
By Nadin Abbott
Photos and videos by Billy Ortiz
July 2, 2013 (Lakeside)—Firefighters from Heartland Fire, the U.S. Forestry Service, Cal-Fire and Lakeside Fire Department have attained 50% containment of a brush fire that consumed at least 110 acres Lakeside as of this evening. The fire began along El Monte Road in light, flashy fuels this afternoon and burned portions of El Cajon Mountain (El Capitan).
19 elite firefighters dead in raging Arizona wildfire
By Nadin Abbott
June 30,2013 (San Diego)—A wildfire has resulted in a tragedy for Arizona firefighters and the nation, wiping out an entire Hotshot crew. An Ariziona state forestry official confirms that 19 firefighters, including 18 members of the elite Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed in the line of duty today, fighting a fast-moving brush fire that leveled 250 homes in Yarnell. The unit’s only surviving member is reportedly hospitalized with burns. http://www.wivb.com/dpps/news/nation/18-firefighters-unaccounted-for-bat...
These firefighters are the elite of the elite in firefighting circles, among the best-trained firefighters in the country. Prescott is the first municipal department in the United States to gain the prestigious designation of a Hot Shot crew. It is the city with the oldest fire department in that State as well.
June 29, 2013 (San Diego) – One out of every four fires is started by arson, according to Cal-Fire. When an arsonist sets a fire, everyone pays. Arson fires destroy homes, businesses, communities, forests, wilderness and lives. They cost our community considerably in fire losses, firefighting expenses and higher insurance premiums. They also tie up fire crews and equipment needlessly.
By Miriam Raftery
Photos by 10 News and Leon Thompson
June 29, 2013 (Santee)---Exploding propane tanks fueled a fire in the 10500 block of Prospect Avenue in Santee yesterday, ECM news partner 10 News reports.
The fire began in a trash pile or container , according to Heartland Fire & Rescue spokeman Sonny Saghera. The blaze damaged a home, a garage and several vehicles, Santee Patch.com reported.
By Nadin Abbott
June 28. 2013 (San Diego’s East County)-- The smoke that residents in East County have seen in recent days is coming from a fire in Mexico, about 17 miles (28 kilometers) south of the international border. The fire has consumed 1,235 acres (500 hectares) and it is about 50% contained.
June 26, 2013 (San Diego's East County)--Effective June 28, 2013 at 6:00 a.m., fire restrictions on the Cleveland National Forest will be moved to the “Elevated” level. The increase in fire restrictions is due to dryer fuel conditions, higher temperatures, and the likelihood of small fires becoming larger fires.
The purpose of fire restrictions is to reduce the risk of human-caused fires during high fire danger. Fire restrictions impose limitations on forest users and are implemented only as deemed necessary to help prevent wildfires.
Cases have significance for ratepayers if jurors find SDG&E liable for punitive damages
By Nadin Abbott; Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report
June 21, 2013 (San Diego)—Six years after the Witch Creek/Guejito fires, which the California Public Utilities Commission found were caused by SDG&E’s lines, over 2,000 victims have reached settlements with SDG&E. But 16 victims have not settled or received any compensation from the utility for their losses. Now a judge has ruled that some cases may proceed to trial.
At a court hearing on June 19, Judge Richard E. L. Strauss ruled that victims will finally have their day in court—in some cases, with a tort liability, all-issues trial. That could force SDG&E to pay punitive damages if a jury finds the utility was negligent and knew of fire hazards that it failed to correct.
Judge Strauss has set a date for the all-issues trial to finally settle the remaining cases of the Witch Creek/ Rice and Guejito Fires of 2007. These were among the most destructive fires in San Diego history.
By Miriam Raftery
June 16, 2013 (Palomar) –Palomar Mountain Volunteer Fire Department has hired an attorney in an effort to stave off strong-arm efforts by the County, which seeks to force the tiny department to join the County Fire Authority or lose funds. Joining would mean handing over control to Cal-Fire, which runs rural stations under the CFA.
“Our closest mutual aid is 45 minutes down the hill,” Chief George Lucia said at a packed public meeting in late May, the U-T San Diego reported. “They’re telling me I can’t hire local community volunteers. I say to them that without my local community volunteers that live here, sleep here and have a stakeholder’s interest in the community, I can’t guarantee that I can cover a call.”
By Nadin Abbott; photos by Tom and Nadin Abbott
June 17, 2018 (San Diego)—Aerial and ground firefighting efforts, including bulldozers, held yesterday’s brush fire to 110 acres. The blaze started around 4:30 off the shoulder of State Route 52 just east of Santo Road. Flames spread quickly in light to medium fuels into the boundary of Mission Trails Regional Park, precipitating a multi-agency responses.
When we first arrived on scene at Highway 52 and Santo Road, the highway was clogged with a hard closure of the on ramp.
Update 8:30 p.m. - Fire is 70% contained and has reached 110 acres, ECM reporter Nadin Abbott reports.
Update 8:00 p.m. -- The fire has swelled to 60 acres, ECM news partner 10 News reports. One lane of 52 east is now open but the Santos ramp remains closed. There are no threats to structures at this time.
June 16, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- A fast-burning brush fire has consumed 20 acres and has now crossed into Mission Trails Regional Park, according to the CHP website at 5:25 p.m. State Route 52 eastbound is also being shut down near Santo Road.
June 5, 2013 (Lemon Grove)--Two hundred goats are munching away in Lemon Grove, clearing about an acre of dry brush a day.
The City of Lemon Grove, along with its fire department, Heartland Fire & Rescue, has brought in the four footed brush-clearing team to create defensible space that helps firefighters protect homes from wildfire.
The goats are at work near Central Ave and Liberty Charter High School, and may be visible to motorists along State Route 125.
June 2, 2013 (San Pasqual) – Cal-Fire has informed East County Magazine that the 15-acre Boden Fire is burning off Highway 78 and Boden Canyon Road in the vicinity of the Boden Canyon preserve. The fire is in the San Pasqual Valley west of Ramona, burning in a westerly direction with winds approximately 10 miles per hour.
“There are no structures in the area,” Mike Mohler with Cal-Fire told ECM. The fire is burning at a moderate rate of speed. “Aircraft are staging at San Pasqual Academy and it sounds like the aircraft are holding it,” he said, adding that there is no current threat to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park located about four miles east of the blaze.
June 2, 2013 (Alpine)--Alpine Sheriff's Station will host a free community meeting for homeowners on how to prepare your homes and families for wildfire. The event will be held Monday, June 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the Alpine Community Center, 1830 Alpine Boulevard in Alpine. A severe fire season is anticipated due to drought, so authorities urge residents to learn how to reduce risk of loss and help firefighters protect your properties before the next major wildfire occurs.
Guest Speakers will include:
Photos by Lisa Elkins-Goodman, Brett Stalbaum and Joseph Moulton
By Miriam Raftery and Nadin Abbott
Update May 28, 2013 -- The General Fire is now 950 acres and 85% contained, Cal Fire confirms. The cause of the fire has been traced to shooting. One injury has been reported from the fire.
May 26, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) Upodated May 27 9 a.m.– The brush that began yesterday in Rodriguez Canyon south of Highway 78, across from the Banner Grade Store in the 3600 block of Highway 78, is now 850 acres and 20 percent contained. IPN indicates the fire is spreading rapidly and has potential for 300 acres. Helicopter indicates no structures are threatened at this time, however there is a power outage.
Power restoration is expected at 3 p.m. There is no estimate on containment.
Multiple strike teams have been dispatched to battle the fire on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property.
By Nadin Abbott
Photo: Firefighters battle spot fire in Lakeside; photo by Jeff Holz
May 26, 2013 (San Diego East County)—Fire season is off to an early start. Yesterday, even as firefighters fought to contain the 1800-acre San Felipe fire in the mountains of East County, four new fires drew resources from across the region. Here is a wrap-up on those fires in Ramona, Lakeside, the Santee/San Diego boundary area, Dulzura, and the border region.
1800 ACRES OF WILDERNESS SCORCHED IN SAN FELIPE FIRE AMID GROWING QUESTIONS OVER OUT-OF-CONTROL BURN
Dozers ordered to Volcan Mountain
By Miriam Raftery
“Something will have gone out of us as people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed.” – Wallace Stegner
May 24, 2013 (Julian) Updated May 29, 2013 – The quote above is inscribed on the Volcan Mountain Foundation webpage, a site devoted to protecting the wilderness preserve. But today, as a raging wildfire that started as a controlled burn encroached, bulldozers were ordered to cut a firebreak on the crest of Volcan Mountain, ECM has learned.
Meanwhile an ECM investigation has raised growing questions over whether this fire could have been prevented. Those questions include:
- Why did Cal-Fire order a controlled burn in hot weather just hours after a high wind advisory had expired?
- Why did the National Weather Service issue a spot fire weather report to Cal-Fire advising lower wind speeds when it has no wind monitor in the valley where the fire occurred?
- Why was Volcan Mountain Foundatiion advised conditions were too dangerous for it to conduct pile burning, yet Cal-Fire conducted its own controlled burn?
- Why did fire officials underestimate the potential size of this fire at 500 acres? (It has burned over 1,800 acres and is 60% contained.)
- Should Cal-Fire’s plan to sharply increase the number of acres it clears statewide be axed given the consequences of this out-of-control burn?
By Nadin Abbott
Update May 24, 2013: 2 p.m. - The blaze is now 1800 acres.
Update May 24, 2013: Cal Fire held the blaze to 1500 overnight and now has 60% containment, with no threat to structures. One minor injury to a firefighter occurred.
May 23, 2013 (San Felipe)—Around 1 p.m., Cal Fire informed San Diegans through its Twitter account that it was conducting a controlled burn near the site of last year’s Ranchita Fire.Soon after, according to Cal Fire Deputy Chief Kely Zombro, “The winds shifted in an unprecedented way.”
The fire escaped the containment area, triggering mobilization of resources from across the region. As luck would have it, a multi-agency wildland training drill was being conducted at the Barona Reservation, where firefighters were swiftly shifted from the drill to the fire scene for a hands-on real-life exercise.
Photo by Jamelle McCullough
May 23, 2013 (San Diego's East County)--A controlled burn has grown out of control due to a change in wind directions. The fire started along State Route 78 at the Great Southern Overland Stage route. Authorities initally predicted the blaze had potential for 500 acres, but it has now topped 1,500 acres with 30% containment.
There is no current threat to structures of infrastructure, per Cal Fire.
The California Highway Patrol website indicates that a closure has been ordered on S-2 at S22 and at State Route 78. Smoke is blowing across San Felipe. According to the Julian News editor, the route from Shelter Valley to Warner Springs is blocked. Road closures are expected to remain in effect through tomorrow.