Photos by Leslie O'Brien and Nancy Hauer
Update: Forward spread is halted; firefighters are expected to remain on scene through this evening.
May 12, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- A brush fire that began near the river bed at 13425 Old Highway 80 near Las Coches Road could reach 20 acres or more and is now burning mobile homes. A female burn patient from a homeless camp that burned has been transported to a hospital.
Two strike teams and a helicopter have been ordered. CHP is shutting down traffic on Las Coches.
By Nadin Abbott
May 12, 2013 (El Cajon)—California Governor Edmund G. Brown declared the past week “Wildfire Awareness Week.” On Thursday, the top brass fromr Cal-Fire and San Diego Sheriff’s Department addressed the media. ECM also spoke with Lakeside Division Chief R. Laff.
All officials are urging San Diego residents who live in the urban-rural interface, as well as rural areas to be ready for a severe fire season that’s started early. So far Cal Fire has responded to more than 1,100 wildfires already, which is 500 more than normal for this time of year. According to Cal Fire Chief Cal Fire Chief Dale Hutchinson, Southern Region Chief 40,000 acres burned last week.
Officials are urging residents to get ready and maintain 100-feet of defensible space. This is not optional; it is the law, as Chief Hutchinson told us, for those in the urban-wildland interface. Also clean your gutters, and other places where dry vegetation might accumulate. If you do any remodeling, look into the latest fire resistant materials. In addition, remove all tree branches that are within six feet of your home.
By Nadin Abbott
May 12, 2013 (Lakeside) Updated May 13, 2013—A fire that led to voluntary evacuations on Mapleview in Lakeside yesterday serves as an early warning of the difficult fire season forecast due to unusually dry conditions this year. According to Lakeside Fire Chief Andy Parr, the fire started at 3:40 p.m. and crews quickly mobilized. The fire started at the top of the hill and raced downhill towards the San Diego River.
“It is very dry, it was bigger and moved faster than they usually do at this time of the year,” Chief Parr told ECM. This is expected to be a very busy fire season and Chief Parr emphasized, “it is critical that residents have defensible space.”
At the top of the hill, one property stood out. (Photo, top left). The owner had cleared 100 feet of defensible space as recommended around the property, Chief Parr pointed out.
Photos by Billy Ortiz and Kari Koch
May 11, 2013 (Lakeside) -- A fire this afternoon in Lakeside at Mapleview and Lake Jennings led to evacuations ordered along Mapleview, charring at least six acres, according to eyewitnesses.
Posts at the Brush Fire Partyline on Facebook and e-mails from ECM readers indicated heavy smoke in El Monte Valley. Air attacks and multiple fire units on scene have swiftly knocked down the blaze, numerous witnesses have advised ECM. Watch for further updates.
If you have updates on this incident please e-mail email@example.com and also post in comments section below to inform readers. Watch for updates soon; our reporter is en route.
May 10, 2013 (Ramona) -- The federal government has provided another extension on the announced closure of the Ramona Airport's air traffic control tower and other similar facilities across the nation, this time through at least September 30.
“The decision to keep the Ramona Airport tower open for now is a step in the right direction, but the federal government needs to come up with a long-term budget fix," Supervisor Dianne Jacob said in a press statement today. "Closing the Ramona tower at the end of September would endanger our region when we need the air traffic facility the most. Many of San Diego County’s biggest and deadliest wildfires, including the 2003 and 2007 firestorms, have started in our backcountry in the fall."
By Nadin Abbott
Photos Tom Abbott
May 8, 2013 (Jamul)—As part of the County’s efforts to consolidate rural fire departments, the San Diego Rural Fire Protection District was asked last night whether “it will continue to operate as an independent fire district or dissolve and become part of the new County Fire Authority (CFA).”
The County has given the District until June 30th to sign on a one-year contract that would extend the current contract with Cal-Fire, but ultimately would lead to the dissolution of the district under the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO.)
The pending decision has sparked concerns among residents in the District, which is a high fire risk area that has seen some of the worst wildfires in our region. It is also the area where major new energy projects are proposed which would increase the risk of fire.
Public urged to Report Suspicious Activity
May 8, 2013 (Sacramento) –While encouraging wildfire preparedness this week, CAL FIRE is also reminding residents of the dangers posed by arson. CAL FIRE is pleased to join the United States Fire Administration (USFA) in announcing the theme for the 2013 Arson Awareness Week: Reducing Residential Arson. The goal for this year’s Arson Awareness Week, which takes place May 5-11, 2013, is to provide all residents with strategies to combat arson in their neighborhoods.
According to the USFA’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) during 2008-2010, an estimated 16,800 intentionally set fires in residential buildings occur annually in the United States. These fires result in an estimated 280 deaths, 775 injuries, and $593 million in property loss each year. The average dollar loss for an intentionally set fire in a residential building is $21,320. The fatality rate for intentionally set residential fires was more than twice that of other residential building fires.
May 7, 2013 (Sacramento) – California has already experienced an increase in fire activity, and to ensure Californians are ready, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. has declared May 5-11, 2013 as “Wildfire Awareness Week”. During Wildfire Awareness Week CAL FIRE is reminding residents of the dangers from wildfires and the simple steps that should be followed to prepare and prevent them.
“The conditions right now are what we should be experiencing in June,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE Director. “This year’s dry winter has resulted in a significant increase in fire activity, in fact CAL FIRE firefighters have responded to nearly 1,100 wildfires this year, which is over 500 more than average.”
BACKCOUNTRY RESIDENTS TO HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE DOWNTOWN MONDAY TO OPPOSE WIND ORDINANCE AND BOULEVARD PLAN AMENDMENT
May 3, 2013 (San Diego)—On Monday, May 6 at 1 p.m., East County residents opposed to the proposed County Wind ordinance and Boulevard Plan amendment will hold a press conference outside the County Administration Center at 1600 Pacific Highway (by the fountain on the west side.)
“On May 8th, the Board of Supervisors will make a life-altering choice for rural East County residents and valued resources,” a press release sent by the Protect Our Communities Foundation and Backcountry Against Dumps. Supervisors must choose to either “sell out to the taxpayer-subsidized wind industry and developers and turn the ruggedly beautiful Boulevard/Jacumba area into an unnecessary industrial energy sacrifice zone and fire trap," the rural residents say, or"protect and defend the ratepayers and real people and resources in the predominantly low-income fire-prone area from expensive, unreliable, and dangerous industrial wind turbine projects and related web of electrical infrastructure.”
Speakers will include rural residents and a fire official speaking out on dangers posed by industrial wind projects in our region.
By Miriam Raftery
May 3, 2013 (Sacramento) – With two major fires in Southern California threatening thousands of homes and smaller fires burning statewide, Governor Jerry Brown has responded to requests for support from Cal Fire and the California Emergency Management Agency. He has directed Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin with the California National Guard to provide two specialized firefighting C-130J aircraft and crews from the Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing to assist with the wildfires.
Cal Fire has also activiated a DC 10 (photo, left) Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) capable of carrying 11,600 gallons of retardant, gel, foam, or water—four times the capacity of a C-130 plane.
The Springs Fire in Ventura County has swelled to 18,000 acres and is only 20% contained, forcing evacuations; the Summit Fire in Riverside County has charred over 2,900 acres and is 75% contained. For details on additional fires, see Cal Fire’s incident page.
FIRE THAT DESTROYED $4 MILLION WIND TURBINE RAISES SERIOUS QUESTIONS OVER LACK OF REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
Wind company fails to call fire department, lets blaze burn overnight
By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Tehachapi fire, 2012
April 27, 2013 (San Diego’s East County)—Why is there no federal requirement for wind farm operators to report fires?
That troubling fact came to light following a turbine malfunction that caused a fire, destroying a $4 million wind turbine at the Kibby Mountain facility in Maine. Opponents accuse Trans-Canada of a cover up, the Bangor Daily News reports. (Trans-Canada, builder of the project, is also the company seeking to construct the controversial Keystone Pipeline.)
A sensor in the turbine detected the fire. But an employee did not arrive on scene until the next morning, after the fire had burned itself out. The fire department was never notified, nor was any state agency. Had the blaze not occurred in winter with snow on the ground, the fire could have spread to the adjacent forest, a Maine forestry official has stated.
ECM has asked Cal-Fire in an e-mail whether wind facility operators are required to report fires to fire officials. No response has been received.
May 3, 2013 (San Diego) -- according to the California Highway Patrol CAD system, there is a small vegetation fire on State Route 94 at Kelton. The Offramp has been shut down by the CHP. A brush fire is also reported in Valley Center at Lilac and Sierra Rojo.
Major fires are burning elsewhere in Southern California, always a concern as resources are spread thin to battle multiple blazes amid high-fire danger conditions region-wide.
Update: This fire was halted at 15 acres.
May 3, 2013 (Santa Ysabel) – A brush fire now called the Highway 2 Fire has burned at least 15 acres along State Route 78 at Witch Creek. The blaze is burning eastward in light grass. A blaze is also reported near Highway 78 and Hiddean Valley Road; it is unclear if these are the same fire or two separate ones. Info is from Cal Fire; watch for details soon.
May 3, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – We are currently under severe fire conditions. Homeowners are advised to do the following if there are reports of wildland fires:
• Listen to local radio or TV stations for updated emergency information. Follow instructions of local officials regarding the safest escape route. (It may be different than you expect; wildland fires can change direction and speed up suddenly.)
• If you have one, turn on your FRS Radio and set it to your neighborhood’s channel and code. Check in, and continue to monitor for new information. Channel ______ Code _______
• If you believe the fire is too close to your location, evacuate immediately. (The fire may be moving too fast for officials to issue evacuation notifications.) Choose a route away from the fire and other potential fire hazards.
Update: Aircraft have been released from the Ramona fire. Otay Fire has been stopped at 120 acres.
Photo by Paul Kruze
May 3, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- A 15-20 acre fire named Harvest Fire is burning near Otay Mountain. It is east of Brown Field and is threatening a salvage yard, Cal Fire reports. There are no threats to structures currently.
Cal-Fire is at the scene of a small brush fire in Ramona. The fire is at the Ramona Canyon RV Park, 24340 Highway 78. An air attack has been ordered.
May 2, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) -- Susan Conniry, a director of the Lakeside Fire District, is the speaker at the May 16 meeting of the East County Democratic Club. She will address issues related to her work on the board, including fire prevention. The club meets at 7 p.m. at Coco’s Restaurant, 1025 Fletcher Parkway, El Cajon.
Conniry and her husband, Tom Beasley, are Cedar Fire survivors because they were prepared for the worst. Well-versed in matters of fire prevention, the couple have trained hundreds of San Diego County residents through a disaster preparedness program entitled, “Ready or Not.” Training has beendone in partnership with local fire departments, fire safe councils, and CERT groups. In 2006, the couple authored a handbook, Ready or Not – A Disaster Survival Handbook.
May 2, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- A red flag warning is in effect today and tomorrow through 6 p.m. due to high fire danger from excessive heat, low humidity and high winds.
Cal-Fire has provided an update on fire activitity across the state, including a nearly 3,000-acre fire in RIverside County, as well as increased increased steps that Cal Fire is taking to ensure our region is prepared.
By Miriam Raftery
May 1, 2013 (Ramona) – Responding to long lines at airports across the nation, Congress passed legislation on April 26 to restore funding for air traffic controllers at many major airports. But wording that would have saved the air traffic control tower at Ramona Airport was removed, ECM has learned.
“While I welcome the news that Congress moved to prevent harmful cuts in the FAA budget, I’m extremely disappointed that wording aimed at saving the Ramona Airport tower and other towers was stripped from the legislation,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob.
Update: The fire off 125 reached 20 acres and is now contained.
April 28, 2013 – A brush fire that began along State Route 125 in the vicinity of Magdalena and Birch Streets is now two acres. Helicopters are battling the blaze. Access is difficult for hose-lays. The blaze is in a canyon near Olympian High School. State Route 125 has been closed in both directions.
In Otay, a small fire has also been reported near the George Bailey Detention Center.
Congressional legislation aims to halt June 15 closure of FAA tower, others
County News Service
April 23, 2013 (San Diego)--The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (4/23) urged federal lawmakers to approve pending legislation in Congress that would save the Ramona Airport traffic control tower. The board, on a 5-0 vote, endorsed a pair of bipartisan federal bills that would halt the June 15 closure of the East County facility, along with nearly 150 other towers funded by the Federal Aviation Administration.
April 18, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Create a zone around your house that will slow the wildfire down and possibly direct it around your home. To do this, you must view your yard as a fuel source. Fire will only burn if fuel is present. Fuel can be your landscaping, woodpiles, decks, etc. To create your defensible space, take the following steps within 30 feet of your home, 50 feet if you live in a heavily treed area or 100 feet if your home is on a hillside. If you live in California, a minimum of 100 feet is required (some areas may require more. Check with your local fire department).
April 18, 2013 (El Cajon) – Have you paid $150 for the state fire fee? Have questions? You’re invited to join Assemblyman Brian Jones and Cal Fire at a town hall meeting on Thursday, April 25 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The event will be at the P2K range at 2082 Willow Glen Drive in EL Cajon.
To reserve a seat, call (619)441-2322.
April 17, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – A red flag warning is effect starting 9 a.m. Thursday to 5 p.m. Friday due to strong winds and low humidity, along with warm temperatures that combined will create “explosive fire growth potential,” according to the National Weather Service.
Northeast winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour with gusts of up to 50 mph are forecast. Daytime relative humidity of 5 to 10 percent is predicted with poor overnight recovery.
April 17, 2013 (Ramona) -- A small brush fire in the West Ramona area is contained, however live power lines are down at Walnut and Davis streets. Avoid the area. SDG&E reports 101 homes are without power due to a combination of causes.
April 12, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- The cause of today's spot fires along Interstate 8 was accidental, says Heartland Fire spoksman Sonny Saghera. Heartland responded to reports of several small fires along westbound I-8 from West Main Street in El Cajon to Severin Drive in La Meas around 1 p.m. today.
Heartland Fire & Rescue units from La Mesa and El Cajon, assisted by engines from Cal Fire and Santee, were dispatched to contain the four individual fires approximately 100 yards apart from each other. A structure on Murray Drive in La Mesa was briefly threatened, but fire crews aggressively attacked the flames to keep them along the freeway’s shoulder.
April 12, 2013 (La Mesa) -- Multilple small brush fires have broken out on I-8 in La Mesa, likely caused by a vehicle pulled over under the Grossmont bridge. Other fires are reported at the Spring Street exit. There is also fire reported on westbound 8 at Main Street in El Cajon.
Sources inform ECM that the fires are being knocked down quickly but smoke is heavy so expect lane closures in this area.
April 11, 2013 (Escondido) -- Firefighters are responding to a brush fire at Deer Springs and I-15 in the Escondido area. According to the Incident Page Network there are several spot fires, with a larger header farther south. One fire is now over an acre.
According to the CHP there is a second spot fire starting one to two miles from the original fire.
April 8, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- The California Department of Forest and Protection (CALFIRE) has requested that the state Board of Equalization (BOE) temporarily postpone the $150 State Responsibility Area (SRA) fee collection after receiving tens of thousands of appeals by homeowners contending that the fee was incorrectly assessed.
By Nadin Abbott; photos Tom Abbott
April 5, 2013 (Julian) At this morning’s meeting of the Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District board held at the Women’s Club, the Board voted 2-2 (with one unexcused absence) on the proposal to join the County Fire Authority and dissolve the District. Chairman Jack Shelver and Alan Marvin voted yes; Aida Tucker and Janet Bragdon voted no.
This means, according to Shelver, that “a tie is no action, and therefore we have taken no action, on the motion we have set in motion. We are no longer talking to the County about a contract and we will continue as an independent district.” At this announcement, the crowd, 50 strong, broke into cheers.
FAA POSTPONES CLOSURE OF AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL TOWERS UNTIL JUNE 15, WANTS COUNTY TO TAKEOVER OPERATIONS
April 5, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) --The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that it will delay the closures of all 149 federal contract air traffic control towers from April 7 until June 15, including the Ramona Airport and Brown Field locally. The agency says the extra time will allow the FAA to try and resolve multiple legal challenges to the closures.
“The FAA delay is not good enough,” Supervisor Dianne Jacob said in a press statement issued this morning. “U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said today that safety is the FAA’s top priority. If that was the case, the federal government shouldn’t even be talking about pulling air controllers out of Ramona. The tower is on the front line of public safety in our region, and closing it would a disaster, especially as we approach the height of the wildfire season.”