Deserts

QUEEN FIRE BURNING NEAR JULIAN AND BANNER

Update: The fire is 75% contained, reports Cal Fire San Diego shortly before 5 p.m.

By Miriam Raftery and Jonathan Goetz

August 1, 2021 (Julian) - The #QueenFire has burned 15 acres near the Desert Queen Mine, approximately 2 miles east of Banner and 5 miles east of Julian near State Route 78.

The fire is burning in difficult terrain for ground crews. Cal Fire reported at approximately 3:18 p.m. that "[f]irefighters continue to make great progress from the air and ground."

THREE COUNTY PARKS CLOSED IN AUGUST DUE TO SUMMER HEAT

By Gig Conaughton, County of San Diego Communications Office

August 1, 2021 (San Diego's East County) - Three San Diego County parks will be closed for the month of August starting Sunday, a measure taken each year because of the month’s typically high temperatures.

Parks officials announced that El Capitan Preserve near Lakeside, Hellhole Canyon Preserve in Valley Center and Mt. Gower Preserve in Ramona will be closed.

BORREGO RESIDENTS ORGANIZE TO OPPOSE PREDATOR PLACEMENT AT DE ANZA GOLF ESTATES

By Miriam Raftery

July 31, 2021 (Borrego Springs) – The Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau is leading efforts to oppose the state’s plan to place a sexually violent predator in the community.  A townhall meeting August 4 at 3 p.m. is planned at Anza Country Club, along with other actions.

SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATOR MERLE WAKEFIELD PROPOSED FOR PLACEMENT IN BORREGO SPRINGS: HEARING SEPT. 13

East County News Service

July 29, 2021 (Borrego Springs) – The California Department of State Hospitals is proposing to place Merle Wakefield, a sexually violent predator, under conditional release at 1575 Yaqui Road in Borrego Springs.

Wakefield was convicted of felony rape in 1990 and of a lewd and lascivious act with a child under 14 in 1981.  He served time in state prison and was found in1998 to be a sexually violent predator. He has repeatedly been confined to a state hospital for treatment as a sex offender but in Dec. 2020, a judge granted his petition for conditional release. 

SHOWERS AND POSSIBLE FLOODING TONIGHT, WARM WEATHER ON THE WAY

East County News Service

July 26, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) - The National Weather Service forecasts isolated to scattered showers and thunderstorms in San Diego County’s mountains and deserts this evening, with flash flooding possible in some areas.  There is a chance of more thunderstorms tomorrow afternoon.

A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE ANZA-BORREGO REGION WINS GOLD AT CALIFORNIA BOOK AWARDS

East County News Service

July 20, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) -- A Natural History of the Anza-Borrego Region: Then and Now by Marie Simovich and Mike Wells, published by Sunbelt Publications in El Cajon, has been named a Gold Medal winner in the Contribution to Publishing category at the 90th Annual California Book Awards.

EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING SATURDAY THROUGH MONDAY

By Miriam Raftery, East County Magazine
 
July 8, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning for San Diego County’s inland areas, with temperatures forecast to reach up to 120 degrees in local deserts from Saturday through at least Monday.
 
Expect high temperatures in mountain areas as well, where the heat could hit 98 degrees in areas below 6,000 feet.
 
Today and tomorrow, gusty winds and thunderstorms are possible in local inland areas, with a possibility of monsoonal thunderstorms returning on Tuesday and Wednesday.

SAN DIEGO COMMUNITY POWER INKS DEAL WITH BAYWARE TO BUY ENERGY FROM JACUMBA SOLAR SITE, BUT COUNTY HAS NOT YET APPROVED PROJECT

East County News Service

July 8, 2021 (Jacumba Hot Springs) -- BayWa r.e., a renewable energy developer and services provider, has entered into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with San Diego Community Power (SDCP), the not-for-profit community choice energy program serving five cities in the San Diego region.

Under the terms of the agreement, SDCP would purchase power for 20 years from the Jacumba Valley Ranch (JVR) Energy Park being developed by BayWa r.e. near Jacumba Hot Springs in San Diego County.

JACUMBA RESIDENTS CONTINUE TO FIGHT SOLAR PROJECT: JULY 9 PLANNNG COMMISSION HEARING IS NEXT STEP

Story and photos by Henri Migala 

Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report

June 30, 2021 (Jacumba Hot Springs) -- Imagine moving to a small, quiet, rural community over an hour away from a major metropolitan area to enjoy the quiet solitude of the open backcountry--only to learn that an international investment group is planning on building a massive solar project, six times larger than your entire community, within feet from you house.<--break->

MONSOONAL THUNDERSTORMS POSSIBLE TUESDAY THROUGH THURSDAY, ALONG WITH FLASH FLOODS, DAMAGING WINDS AND HIGH HEAT

By Miriam Raftery
 
Photo via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
 
June 29, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – Monsoonal moisture may bring thunderstorms over San Diego’s mountains and deserts Tuesday through Thursday, with flash flooding, lightning strikes and damaging winds possible particularly in the afternoons and evenings. 

I-8/CRESTWOOD ROAD RAMP CLOSURES NEAR GOLDEN ACORN CASINO BEGIN JULY 6 FOR FOUR WEEKS

Source: Caltrans

June 23, 2021 (Campo) -- Caltrans crews anticipate closures at Interstate 8 (I-8) and Crestwood Road in Campo for four weeks beginning Tuesday, July 6 to replace guardrail systems. The work will require full closures of the westbound I-8/Crestwood Road on-ramp and the eastbound I-8/Crestwood Road off-ramp near the Golden Acorn Casino, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through early August. Please see the map below showing the closure locations.  

BIGHORN SHEEP COUNTER DIES IN ANZA-BORREGO DESERT, ANOTHER HOSPITALIZED; FIREFIGHTER COLLAPSES DURING RESCUE

Update July 4: The California State Park Service has cancelled this year's sheep count due to the death and will be examining safety protocols.
 
By Miriam Raftery
 
Photo courtesy of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
 
June 23, 2021 (Borrego Springs) Updated July 25 – A hike into Palm Canyon within Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to leave water in preparation for the annual desert bighorn sheep count turned deadly Saturday afternoon.  Medics were called to rescue a pair of hikers in distress around 12:40 p.m.
 
Cal Fire Captain Frank LoCoco told CBS 8, “One of those hikers succumbed to that heat illness and was declared deceased at the scene, and the other was transported to the hospital in critical condition.”  The hiker was identified by the Medical Examiner on June 25 at Donald White of Culver City. Fox 5 reports that he was a volunteer participating in the annual desert bighorn sheep count.
 
A firefighter from Borrego Springs also collapsed during the rescue operation, LoCoco said.

FAST-MOVING OVERLAND FIRE BURNING EAST OF MOUNT LAGUNA

Update June 20, 2021 11 a.m. -- The fire is holding at 343 acres and remains 5% contained, Cal Fire reports this morning.

Update 8 p.m.  --  Cal Fire tweet:  #OverlandFire off of Canebrake Canyon Road and Great Southern Overland Stage Route , East of Mount Laguna in San Diego County is 343 acres and 5% contained. Change in acreage due to better mapping. @CALFIRESANDIEGO

 

By Miriam Raftery

June 19, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – A brush fire burning near Canebrake along the Great Southern Overland trail has scorched 500 acres and is zero percent contained as of early this afternoon, Cal Fire reports. The #OverlandFire is east of Mount Laguna in the Anza-Borrego Desert.

No evacuations have been ordered as of 1:30 p.m. The fire is in a remote location and is not currently threatening any structures. However, a Cal Fire spokesman on Twitter indicated access for ground crews is difficult due to rugged terrain, requiring additional air resources that are now on scene.

Several Canebrake residents contacted ECM to clarify that the fire is not burning within the community of Canebrake, but to the west.

EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING NEXT WEEK, HIGH FIRE DANGER: COUNTY TO OPEN COOL ZONES

Update: Borrego Springs Branch Library is a cool zone, open starting Monday, June 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
 
By Miriam Raftery
 
June 11, 2021 (San Diego) – The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning starting Monday, June 14 through Thursday, June 17 across Southern California. Breezes along with dry conditions will lead to elevated fire weather conditions each afternoon. 
 
Potential record-breaking temperatures are forecast, with low deserts reaching 115 to 120 degrees and high deserts 110 to 112 degrees. San Diego County’s valleys could reach up to 101 degrees, mountains up to 95 degrees, and beaches up to 84 degrees.
 
Soaring temperatures mean increased risk of heat-related illnesses, particularly for those involved in outdoor activities and vulnerable individuals. 

QUAKES RATTLE REGION

By Miriam Raftery

June 6, 2021 (San Diego) – More than three dozen earthquakes struck Imperial County yesterday before 12 noon, centered near Calipatria and the Salton Sea. The strongest tremor measured 5.3 on the Richter scale, with a depth of 5.8 kilometers.

The temblors were felt across Southern California including the San Diego region, according to the U.S. Geological Survey website’s shake map.

50TH ANNUAL BORREGO BIGHORN SHEEP COUNT SET FOR JULY

By Miriam Raftery
 
Photo by Darren Sefcik
 
May 28, 2021 (Borrego Springs) – For the past half-century, teams of volunteers have ventured into rugged terrain amid high heat to count bighorn sheep in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Last year, the count was partially curtailed due to COVID-19, but this year, the count is slated to occur July 1-4.  

READER’S EDITORIAL: HELP FIGHT “GREEN MONSTER” IN JACUMBA: SD COMMUNITY POWER VOTE SLATED FOR TODAY

By Greg Curran

May 27, 2021 (Jacumba Hot Springs) -- The community of Jacumba Hot Springs needs your voice to push back again the impending destruction of our small rural community which has been designated as a Colonia.

Jacumba is a diverse, low income community (~50 percent white, ~38 percent Latino or Hispanic, ~20 percent Pacific Islander.) Many of the residents are renters, and a large number are disabled and living on small fixed incomes. With Jacumba's affordable home prices (100K to 200K), people have an opportunity to own a modest home here. However, they will not have the resources to move to a more expensive community if the developer (BayWe re) is successful in pushing through a 623 acre utility-scale solar project within the Jacumba village boundary. This solar project will provide no jobs for locals and more importantly, it will keep Jacumba from growing or ever having a border crossing, things that would improve the vitality of this currently economically depressed town.(See brief project summary.)

Previously in April 2021, the Jacumba Sponsor Group voted to approve a 200 acre solar facility that would be pulled back away for residences, the Jacumba airport, and scenic Highway 80. On May 18, 2021, the sponsor group voted unanimously to deny the 623 acre Jacumba Valley Ranch (JVR) project for a variety of reasons.

Just two days ago, we learned that San Diego Community Power will be voting today on whether to approval a 20 year power purchase agreement with the JVR solar developer. It is item 16 on their agenda.

EAST COUNTY LAGS BEHIND ON VACCINATION RATES, BUT RURAL AREAS ARE UNCOUNTED

Data raises troubling rural/urban equity disparity in vaccine distribution 

By Miriam Raftery

May 17, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – COVID-19 Vaccination rates in East County communities are significantly below the county average – but most rural, mountain and desert communities haven’t even been documented.  

JACUMBA MEETING SHINES LIGHT ON ARRAY OF SOLAR ISSUES

“Nothing in this project does a hoot for anyone who lives out here.” – Cheryl Diefenbach
 
By Miriam Raftery
 
May 11, 2021 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – Residents in Jacumba Hot Springs are shining a light on their concerns about the proposed Jacumba Valley Ranch Solar Project, which includes a 643 acre solar energy facility on 1200 acres of land. That’s six times the size of Jacumba Hot Springs’ downtown district.Residents of this high desert town along the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego’s East County held a community meeting Friday night.  The meeting was held in person, since many in this remote enclave lack access to high speed internet and the County is only allowing the town’s planning group to hold virtual meetings. More than 50 people showed up—around a tenth of the town’s population, based on the last Census. 

FUNDRAISERS PLANNED TO HELP VALENZUELA FAMLY THAT LOST HOME IN SOUTHERN FIRE

East County News Service

May 7, 2021 (San Diego's East County) - The Southern Fire burned some 5200 acres May 1st through 3rd, forcing evacuations and destroying three structures, including Eduardo (Eddie) and Priscilla Valenzuela’s ranch home near Butterfield Ranch

SENATOR JONES' MEASURE TO SAVE OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE COMPETITIONS IS ON A ROLL, CLEARS SECOND COMMITTEE

East County News Service

 

File Photo:  Senator Brian Jones, an avid off-road enthusiast 

 

April 27, 2021 (Sacramento) --  Senate Bill 227, a measure by Senator Brian W. Jones (R-Santee) to save off-highway vehicle (OHV) competitions in California, cleared the Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee. 

 

 “SB 227 had another successful committee hearing with more bipartisan backing for our efforts, this time from the members of the Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee,” said Senator Brian W. Jones. “We’ve worked hard for the past two years with OHV stakeholders and affected governmental agencies, including State Parks and the Air Resources Board. SB 227 is a true consensus measure that will allow OHV competitions to continue operating and being a strong part of the recreational economies in rural and suburban California.”

STATE ISSUES WARNING FOR PEOPLE AND PETS TO AVOID WATER CONTACT AT SALTON SEA DUE TO TOXIC ALGAE OUTBREAK

Recent death of a dog underscores potential consequences

 

East County News Service

 

April 23, 2021 (Salton Sea) – The California Water Boards has issued a warning for people and their dogs to avoid water contact in the Salton Sea, located in Imperial and Riverside Counties. The warning is due to multiple Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) detected at numerous sites in the Salton Sea after a dog died following a swimming excursion there.

RANCHITA’S MARKET DESTROYED BY FIRE, FUNDRAISER AIMS TO HELP FAMILY REBUILD

By Miriam Raftery

 

April 20, 2021 (Ranchita) – The Manzanita Valley Market, Ranchita’s only grocery outlet, is known for its iconic Yeti statue. The market has long been a roadside attraction for motorists and cyclists heading to or from the Anza Borrego desert. It’s also been a popular stop for hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail, who would stock up on supplies or even sleep over in a bunkhouse.  

STRONG WINDS, HOT WEATHER AND A CHANCE OF RAIN FORECAST

East County News Service
 
April 20, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – A heat wave is forecast for today through Thursday, with temperatures up to 96 degrees in the desert and 90-90 degrees in inland valleys.  Strong winds with gusts up to 65 miles per hour in the mountains and up to 55 mph in the deserts are also predicted.
 
There is a chance of drizzle and light rain tonight through Thursday afternoon in coastal, valley and desert regions.

FIREBALLS IN THE SKY: METEOR SHOWERS START TONIGHT, PEAKING ON EARTH DAY

East County News Service

Image via NASA: Lyrid meteor showers in 2012

April 16, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – Look up during the early morning hours April 16-30 and you may be treated to a view of the Lyrids meteor shower. Called the "Old Faithful of meteor showers" by Space.com because their peak usually lasts for several hours, the Lyrids are known for producing fireballs, or meteors with trails of glowing, ionized gas in their wake. 

BORREGO SPRINGS FILM FESTIVAL TO HOLD DRIVE-INS APRIL 15-19

 

East County News Service

April 11, 2021 (Borrego Springs) - The 8th annual Borrego Springs Film Festival April 15-19 will be a free outdoor drive-in event.

The special event will take place at the shopping mall in the center of Borrego Springs. Guests will see a collection of films from all around the world.

EARTH DAY IN THE HIGH DESERT APRIL 24

East County News Service

(Photo by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson)

April 10, 2021 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – Desert View Tower in Jacumba Hot Springs will host an Earth Day celebration on April 24 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

You’re invited to come experience Earth in the high desert including an Earth blessing ceremony and Sacred black Star Eyed Eagle Dancer, an array of live music, healthy natural foods including vegan options, and a wildflower and plant walk. There will also be alternative healers, local arts and crafts, nature art, native plants for sale, herbal products and essential oils, EMF awareness, nutritional counseling, natural beauty, country collectibles and more.

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