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INTO THE ASHES: RESIDENTS RETURN TO MOUNT LAGUNA

 

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.”

CHARIOT FIRE 65% CONTAINED, SOME EVACUATIONS LIFTED

 

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.

FIRESTORM PHOTOS FROM OUR READERS

 

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.

CHARIOT FIRE JUMPS SUNRISE HIGHWAY, STRUCTURES AND CAMPS BURNED ON MT LAGUNA

 

 

 

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.”

EVACUATIONS ORDERED FROM CAMPGROUNDS AND HOMES; KNSJ TRANSMITTER IN PATH OF 2500-ACRE CHARIOT FIRE

 

 

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.

View map of fire: https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn2/971143_561267857270007_1100094835_n.jpg

 

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. 

CHARIOT FIRE SWELLS TO 500 ACRES, SUNRISE HIGHWAY SHUT DOWN

 

 

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. 

FIRE CHARS 110 ACRES IN LAKESIDE

By Nadin Abbott

Photos and videos by Billy Ortiz

View video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFyIKMWlzdE&feature=youtu.be

 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).

DECADES OF EXPERIENCE LOST WITH PRESCOTT HOTSHOT CREW

 

 

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.

$5,000 REWARD FOR REPORTING ARSON

 

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.

FIRES DOUSED IN SANTEE INDUSTRIAL DISTRICT AND IN LAKESIDE

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.

BRUSH FIRE BURNING SOUTH OF TECATE

 

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.

ELEVATED FIRE RESTRICTIONS IN CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST

 

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.

COURT SETS TRIAL DATE FOR WITCH CREEK/GUEJITO WILDFIRE VICTIMS

 

 

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.

PALOMAR ‘S VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT FIGHTS BACK AS COUNTY PUSHES FOR TAKEOVER

 

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.”

MULTI AGENCY RESPONSE HALTS 110-ACRE FIRE OFF HIGHWAY 52

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.

BRUSH FIRE BURNS INTO MISSION TRAILS, FORCES SHUT DOWN OF HIGHWAY 52 EAST

 

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.

THE GOATS ARE BAAAA-CK: CLEARING BRUSH IN LEMON GROVE

    

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.

15 ACRE FIRE IN SAN PASQUAL NEAR RAMONA

 

 

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.

FREE WILDFIRE PREPAREDNESS EVENT JUNE 3 IN ALPINE

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:

FIRE ON BANNER GRADE NEAR JULIAN IS 85% CONTAINED

 

 

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.

FIREFIGHTERS BATTLED FIVE FIRES AT ONE TIME

 

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?

FIREFIGHTERS PULLED FROM MULTI-AGENCY DRILL HELP BATTLE 1,500 ACRE SAN FELIPE FIRE

 

 

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.

CONTROL BURN NOW OUT OF CONTROL NEAR SHELTER VALLEY AREA; BLAZE CHARS 1,500 ACRES

 

 

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.

 

OTAY BRUSH FIRE NOW 100 ACRES: POTENTIAL FOR 400 ACRES

Photo by Kim Hamilton

 

Update 5 p.m.:  The fire has reached 100 acres and is burning uphill and into the Otay Truck Trail area, closer to homes. Smoke is visible from Highway 94.

Update from Cal-Fire at 4:40 p.m.:   CAL FIRE is on scene of a 7 acre vegetation fire along the US/Mexico Border near Alta Road and Tin Can Hill (TB Map 1352 C3).  Currently we have 17 engines, 6 fire crews, 4 airtankers, 2 helicopters, 1 bulldozer, 3 water tenders and 2 chief officers either on scene or enroute.

 

The fire was dispatched at 4:14 and the fire originated in Mexico.  No structures are threatened.

May 22, 2013 (Otay) – Firefighters are battling a fast-spreading brush fire that started at Alta Road and Via De La Amistad in the east Otay area south of Otay Lakes.   The fire has  charred at least seven acres and has potential to burn 300, IPN reports.

There are currently no structure threats.  On flank has slowed but the other side is “taking off” per IPN.   Six hand crews and ten type-3 engines have been requested by the incident commander.

SAN MIGUEL FIRE DISTRICT AND CAL FIRE SEEKING VOLUNTEERS FOR WILDFIRE PREPAREDNESS AND PREVENTION CAMPAIGN MAY 25

 

May 22, 2013 (Spring Valley) – Maybe becoming a volunteer Firefighter is a bit much, but please consider being a volunteer “Fire Preventer.”

The San Miguel Fire District in cooperation with its partner CAL FIRE, is ramping up its “Before the Threat, Are You Ready” preparedness and prevention campaign. This massive public education effort provides critical preparedness information with an old- fashioned door-to-door contact.

Again this year they are hoping teams of community volunteers join CAL FIRE Firefighters in a door-to-door campaign in the Districts high hazard urban interface areas. Two major fires in four years have shown all of us the need to be prepared and to create defensible space, to have an evacuation plan, and have the supplies necessary to take care of your families for up to a week.

DON'T DELAY PAST MAY: IT'S TIME TO PREPARE FOR WILDFIRES

 

Residents Urged to Clear Defensible Space, Plan for Family Readiness

May 22, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – California has already seen 1,569 wildfires this year, about 500 more fires compared to the same period last year and 85 percent more fires than in an average year. With the long, hot and dangerous summer a real possibility, County Supervisor Dianne Jacob and public safety officials today urged residents to protect their homes against wildfires by creating a 100-foot buffer zone.

“Now is the time to prepare for what is shaping up as a tougher-than-usual fire season,” said Supervisor Jacob. “The firestorms of 2003 and 2007 taught us that homes with defensible space are far more likely to survive than homes without it.”

RAMONA RESIDENTIAL FIRE TURNS INTO BRUSH FIRE

 

By Sholeh Sisson 

May 22 2013 (Ramona)-- Mike Mohler, spokesman from Cal-Fire, has informed East County Magazine that a vehicle/ residential fire burned into brush in a nearby field.  Fire crews halted the blaze at one-quarter acre.

The fire was dispatched at 11:55 this morning and resources will be there until 2 p.m. Avoid area near 2014 Montecito while crews are at work.

HOMELESS WOMAN IN CRITICAL CONDITION AFTER FIRE BURNS HOMELESS CAMP, MOBILE HOMES AND VEHICLES IN LAKESIDE

 

 

Ordeal shines spotlight on East County’s failure to offer shelter for the homeless

“We are too late. We the community of East County have let our homeless vets down again.”  --a reader's post on Fox News story about the fire

 

By Nadin Abbott and Miriam Raftery; photos by Billy Ortiz and Nadin Abbott

May 12, 2013 (Lakeside) – It was a grim Mother’s Day for families displaced by a fire that ravaged mobile homes in Lakeside today, and for a homeless woman veteran who is hospitalized with serious burns.

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