Rural communities

WELCOME, RURAL RESIDENTS!

Our Rural section covers most San Diego County's inland communities south of I-8  to the border including Alpine, Barrett Junction, Boulevard, Campo, Deerhorn Valley, Dehesa, Dulzura,  Jamul,  Japatul, Lake Morena, Otay,  Potrero, and Spring Valley. 


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POSSIBLE KUMEYAAY CREMATION SITE SPARKS NEW BID TO HALT BORDER WALL PROJECT

By Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

Photo:  Members of the Kumeyaay tribe danced at the beginning of the Women’s March rally in 2019. Photo by Chris Stone

November 27, 2020 (San Diego) - The surprise discovery of possible human remains at Kumeyaay cultural sites has sparked a new attempt to halt border wall construction — even with 14 of 15 miles of the bollards already done.


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BRUSH FIRE IN JAPATUL VALLEY

East County Wildfire & Emergency Alerts

Photo by Bob Scheid

November 27, 2020 (Japatul Valley) – A 10-acre brush fire is burning along Japatul Valley Road near Red Hawk Road, south of Interstate 8, Cal Fire reports.  The fire is spreading at a moderate rate but firefighters are making good progress.

Evacuation warnings have been issued just south of Windfall Ranch and just south of Lyons Valley Rd. east of Japatul, per the CHP website.   

Japatul Valley Road is closed at the I-8 exit.

 


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SDG&E WARNS 2,700 CUSTOMERS OF POTENTIAL PUBLIC SAFETY POWER SHUTOFFS AFTER THANKSGIVING

East County News Service

Nov. 25, 2020  (San Diego’s East County)  – Stock up on coolers to keep your Thanksgiving leftovers chilled.  Due to a Red Flag Warning  issued by the National Weather Service and forecasted Santa Ana winds, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has notified approximately 2,700 customers in the communities of Alpine, Campo Reservation, Crestwood, Descanso, Julian, La Posta Reservation, Manzanita Reservation, Pala, Santa Ysabel, Santa Ysabel Reservation, Valley Center and Viejas Reservation, that it may have to turn off power to reduce wildfire risk beginning early Friday morning.      

 “The last thing we want to be telling any of our customers right now is that we may have to shut off power given the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and the ongoing COVID pandemic,” said SDG&E’s Chief Customer Officer Scott Crider. “Public Safety Power Shutoffs are a last resort to prevent wildfires, and our employees are dedicated to doing everything we can to minimize impacts should it come to that. We’re hoping Mother Nature cooperates, but in an abundance of caution we have reached out to our customers so they can be prepared.”

Several hundred SDG&E linemen, troubleshooters and support personnel will be working on Thanksgiving Day and through the holiday weekend to ensure that power can be restored as quickly and as safely as possible, should safety power shutoffs occur.


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DRY WEATHER, FIRE DANGER RETURNS LATE THIS WEEK

By Miriam Raftery

November 22, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Dry weather is forecast this week, with fire weather conditions over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Temperatures will be at or slightly below normal with patchy dense fog tonight and gusty westerly winds Monday across mountain passes and in the deserts.  By late Thursday, moderate Santa Ana winds could bring gusts up to 50 miles per hour.


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LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS EXOTIC ANIMAL SANCTUARY KICKS OFF HOLIDAY SEASON WITH FESTIVE, SOCIALLY-DISTANCED OUTDOOR EVENTS

Source: Lions, Tigers and Bears
 
November 18, 2020 (Alpine) – Lions Tigers & Bears, San Diego’s only accredited big cat and bear sanctuary, is welcoming guests to spend the holidays with its resident exotic animals. The animal rescue and education facility has released its holiday schedule, celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with enriching animal activities during their limited-capacity, special visits.
 
Lions Tigers & Bears guests will encounter retired circus animals, exotic animals formerly used for inhumane photo and petting opportunities and abandoned, illegally owned big cats, all who’ve been rescued and given forever homes in wide open habitats.
 
Visitors will observe in awe as these majestic creatures celebrate with feasts and activities of their own during each holiday-themed visit.

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SOME BUSINESSES AND CHURCHES SET TO DEFY SHUTDOWN ORDERS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo,left: Major's Diner in Pine Valley, a long-time roadside stop for travelers also popular with local residents, could not survive another shut down in winter weather, the owner says.

November 13, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Several East County business owners and at least one megachurch have announced intentions to defy a new state mandate to shut down indoor services starting Saturday.  In addition, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells says police in his city won’t prioritize enforcement of businesses that remain open despite public health orders.

Places of worship, gyms, restaurants and movie theaters are ordered to stop indoor operations under state mandates due to high rates of COVID-19 that have moved San Diego County into the purple tier.  Retailers are supposed to cut service to 25% capacity and any schools not yet reopened are prohibited from doing so.

Restaurants and bars have been tied to 9.2% of all COVID cases in San Diego County from June 6 through November 7, or 3,666 cases, according to newly released county health data. Even with many modifications, the most recent two weeks of data from October 25 to November 7 show 389 cases tied to restaurants and bars, or 10.01% of total new cases—more than any other specific business category.

Yet some restaurant owners say they’re done with shutdowns and would be unable to survive another shutdown as winter approaches.


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CALIFORNIA PROTECTS HOMEOWNERS FROM HAVING FIRE INSURANCE DROPPED - AGAIN

The areas given protection include these zip codes near the destructive Valley Fire in San Diego’s East County:  91901,  91905, 91906, 91914, 91915, 91916, 91917, 91935, 91962, 91963, 91978, 91980,  92021, 92019, 92021, 92040, and  92154.

By James Bikales, CALmatters

CalMatters is an independent public interest journalism venture covering California state politics and government.

Photo:  A firefighter hoses down a burning home to help stop the spread of the fire to nearby homes in the Skyhawk community as the Shady Fire burns in Santa Rosa, on Sept. 28, 2020. Photo by Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

November 12, 2020 (Sacramento) - As this year’s historic wildfire season winds down, Californians living in fire-prone territory got temporary relief from another threat: they can’t lose their homeowners’ insurance policies for another year.


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NOAH HOMES' ENCHANTED VILLAGE TRANSFORMS INTO A DRIVE-THRU HOLIDAY CELEBRATION DEC. 18-23

East County News Service

November 10, 2020 (Spring Valley) - The Enchanted Village is back in San Diego for its third year with modifications made to accommodate social distancing guidelines. The holiday extravaganza, typically a walk-through of the eight-acre grounds of Noah Homes in Spring Valley, is now a COVID compliant drive-thru experience.  


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FIRST SNOWFALL OF SEASON BLANKETS MOUNTAIN AREAS, FREEZE FORECAST FOR HIGH DESERTS TONIGHT

East County News Service

Photo: Snow on Mount Laguna, by Dave Hogan

November 9, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Snow fell overnight on mountaintops in San Diego's inland region including Mount Laguna in East County, with more snow showers possible at higher elevations tonight.  On Mount Palomar, a new record low temperature of 25 degrees was recorded early this morning.

In the high desert areas such as Campo, below freezing temperatures as low as 29 degrees are forecast tonight.

Frost and freeze conditions could kill crops and sensitive vegetation, also potentially damaging unprotected plumbing, the National Weather Service warns.


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HELIX WATER DISTRICT INCUMBENTS ALL WIN RE-ELECTION AFTER DISTRICT DELAYS RATE INCREASE DUE TO COVID-19

By Jonathan Goetz 
 
Photos (L – R): McMillan, Scalzitti & Gracyk (source: Helix Water District)
 
November 9, 2020 (La Mesa) – Directors Dan McMillan, Joel Scalzitti and Mark Gracyk will all return to the Helix Water District Board, after voters rewarded the incumbents for delaying rate increases due to COVID-19, when many ratepayers are struggling financially. Instead, Helix is dipping into its reserves.
 
McMillan defeated Doug Sterling with 75% of the vote.  Scalzitti took 57% of the vote in a four-candidate race, topping Vickie Knight Butcher who got 27%, Lu Tejeda 12%, and Tyler Logan 4%. Gracyk ran unopposed. 

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VEHICLE SPARKS BRUSH FIRE IN POTRERO, KILLING MAN WHO MAY HAVE TRIED TO SAVE DOG

By Miriam Raftery
 
Photo courtesy of Cal Fire
 
November 9, 2020 (Potrero) – Firefighters responding to a brush fire that charred three acres in Potrero found the bodies of a man and a dog in the back seat of a burned vehicle last Thursday.

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REMEMBERANCE & FUNDRAISER NOV 13 FOR ALPINE RESIDENT NICKI BUQUET

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

Nov. 11, 2020 (Alpine) -- A remembrance & fundraiser for Alpine resident Nicole (Nicki) Erin Buquet, 37, will be held this Friday, Nov. 13, at the Alpine American Legion Post 258 on Alpine Boulevard. Buquet leaves behind two young boys and a husband. 

She was killed on Oct. 21 in a suspected DUI crash in La Mesa on state Route 125. Buquet was a passenger in a truck that slammed into the back end of a flatbed tow rig parked on the shoulder just south of Interstate 8 according to the San Diego Medical Examiner.


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EARLY BELL RINGS IN EAST COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD RACES

By Robin N. Kendall

Photo via Bing

November 3, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) — It has been a topsy turvy year for everyone, especially for the area’s school children. Voters weighed enthusiasm, experience and ethics as they chose the next crew of school board trustees, who ultimately will help steer schools out of the rough seas of this quarantine.

On election night, as of early returns at 10:30 p.m., here are our observations.


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VOGEL CHALLENGES HEIMERDINGER FOR MOUNTAIN EMPIRE SCHOOL TRUSTEE

 

By Robin N. Kendall

October 30, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- East County residents in Area 6 of Mountain Empire Unified School District will either reelect  incumbent school board president Tina Heimerdinger, or choose challenger Story R. Vogel, a retired historian who also coaches a the Mountain Empire High School football team.

According to the district website at https://www.meusd.org, Mountain Empire serves families living in Pine Valley, Campo, Descanso, Boulevard, Portero, Lake Morena and Jacumba. Chris Anderson, the incumbent in Area 7 (Campo), is running for reelection unopposed.

Story Vogel responded to East County Magazine (ECM) questions and submitted his biography and ballot statement. Incumbent Tina Heimerdinger was also invited to participate via several emails, but did not respond.

Heimerdinger, who is president of the board, has served on it for more than a decade including the turbulent tenure of Superintendent Steve Van Zant, who pled guilty to felony conflict of interest and was ordered to repay the district $50,000. Van Zant set up charter schools in other districts overseen by Mountain Empire from which his consulting company profited, as ECM reported, also raising questions over lack of oversight by the board on Heimerdinger’s watch.

Here are Vogel's responses:


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MAVERICK, RESCUED TIGER, DIES AFTER MAULING AT LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS

By Miriam Raftery

October 28, 2020 (Alpine) – A popular tiger named Maverick died this week in a tragic accident at the Lions, Tigers and Bears (LTB) facility in Alpine. Moka, another tiger, was accidentally let into the same habitat, fatally injuring Maverick.

Maverick came to the facility in 2014 at nine months of age after being rescued from the exotic animal trade and an owner who had acquired him illegally. Moka was rescued by Border Patrol agents and came to Lions, Tigers and Bears in 2018.

In a letter to supporters, LTB owner Bobbi Brinks voiced sadness at the loss and provided the following explanation: 


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HEARSE HEIST: MORTUARY DRIVING SERVICE OWNER ARRESTED FOR ROBBING DEAD MAN’S HOME

At least five others were victimized in a series of brazen thefts. Authorities seek more victims
 
By Miriam Raftery
 
October 27, 2020 (Spring Valley) – Sammy Willie Gates, the owner of Mortuary Transportation Services, has been arrested for stealing property from the home of a deceased man, smuggling some stolen goods out in a body bag.  

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RENTERS AND HOMEOWNERS ELIGIBLE FOR FEDERAL DISASTER AID AFTER FIRES

Source: FEMA

Photo:  Valley Fire, by Ron Kasper Dronesystems

October 23, 2020 (San Diego) -- The FEMA Individuals and Housing Program is available to all eligible renters and homeowners in Fresno, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, Napa, San Bernardino, San Diego, Shasta, Siskiyou and Sonoma counties, which are covered in the Oct. 16, 2020, federal disaster declaration. Federal monetary awards may help pay for temporary housing and other needs not covered by insurance. The initial rental award is for two months and may be reviewed for further assistance. 


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VALLEY FIRE SURVIVORS MAY APPLY FOR FEDERAL AID TO HELP WITH LOSSES

By Yvette Urrea Moe, County of San Diego Communications Office

Photo:  damage assessor surveys losses from the Valley Fire.

October 23, 2020 (Alpine) - Homeowners or renters affected by the Valley Fire in September can now apply for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant through Dec. 15. The grants are designed to help with serious disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance such as rent, home repair or replacement, medical or dental costs, transportation or other personal property losses.


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RAMONA ELECTION: SCHOOL BOARD TRUSTEES

By Robin N. Kendall

Photo, left:  Joe Stupar

October 23, 2020 (Ramona) - In Ramona Unified School District, residents may vote for two candidates to fill seats on the school board. The four candidates are: Daryn Drum (Retired Firefighter), Dawn Perfect (Parent/Board Member), John Rajcic (Retired Educator/Businessman) and Joe Stupar (Chamber Executive Director). 


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COVID RATES REMAIN LOW IN MOST REOPENED EAST COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Cajon Valley, first to reopen, has most cases.  Three other districts report cases; others lack transparency in disclosure.  

Update October 31:  The Cajon Valley Union School District has added a breakdown by schools of its COVID cases, which now number 15 students and 2 employees  (17 total) at 11 schools. 

By Miriam Raftery

October 21, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – How safe is it to send your child back to school amid a pandemic, or for teachers to provide instruction inside classrooms?

East County Magazine has checked out the websites of all districts in East County to determine how many cases have been reported at schools that have reopened thus far, and how transparent each district is in making this information easily available to parents, teachers and staff.

To date, the County Public Health Department has not reported any outbreaks (defined as 3 or more cases tied to a single location) at any East County elementary, middle, high school or community college district. However some school districts do have cases among both students and staff. It is unclear whether cases were contracted on campus, or how many others may have been exposed.

In some districts, information on schools with COVID cases are being publicly disclosed, but not in others. Asked about this discrepancy, County spokesman Michael Workman said, "A change in the order regarding schools is being discussed and may be in place soon. The state guidance referenced above covers school notification. It’s too early to say what our health order change may say."

Here are the results of ECM's investigation.


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DEPUTIES RESPONDING TO GUNFIRE IN SPRING VALLEY FIND BOOBY-TRAPPED GAMBLING DEN, BUT NO SHOOTING VICTIM

By Miriam Raftery

October 21, 2020 (Spring Valley) – Sheriff’s deputies responding to a call reporting a shooting Monday night discovered an illegal gambling establishment set up in an outbuilding at 1726 Helix Street in Spring Valley. “It contained approximately fifteen slot machines. Spent shell casings from a firearm were also located in the outbuilding,” says Lieutenant Joel Stranger.

Deputies from the Rancho San Diego station responded around 9:22 p.m. Monday and checked the property, but no shooting victim was found. During the search, one deputy stepped on a board with nails sticking up in an apparent “booby trap,” according to Lt. Stranger.


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CALIFORNIA’S 71ST ASSEMBLY DISTRICT RACE: REPUBLICAN RANDY VOEPEL VS. DEMOCRAT LIZ LAVERTU

Spring Valley Planning Group Chair challenges incumbent for Assembly seat

By Mike Allen

Photo: Randy Voepel and Liz Lavertu

October 20, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- As the state grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, budget challenges, and a shortage of affordable housing, voters in the 71st Assembly district have two contrasting choices.

Randy Voepel was first elected to the State Assembly in 2016 and reelected in 2018, winning both times by substantial margins which didn’t surprise him, given the conservative character of the region. But he notes the winning margins are slipping each election, and he doesn’t expect this November’s victory to be as large.


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REOPEN & RESTART HELD AT STEELE CANYON HIGH SCHOOL

By Henri Migala

 

October 18, 2020 (Spring Valley) -- “Everyone wants to do the right thing, but what’s the right thing?” Never has this old saying seemed more apropos than right now, as we all try to navigate through the pandemic.

 

On October 16, the same day that the San Diego Union-Tribune reported 17 new community outbreaks in San Diego, about 35 parents and students demonstrated in front of Steele Canyon High School to urge the school to “reopen and restart.”


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COUNTY HOSTS EXCITING CAMPO ROAD CORRIDOR REVITALIZATION PLAN COMMUNITY FORUM

By Henri Migala

 

October 18, 2020 (Spring Valley) – The public has until October 29 to weigh in with comments on the County of San DIego’s plans for revitalizing a stretch of Campo Road that runs through the heart of Casa de Oro. 

 

To gain more input, the County’s Planning and Development Services (PDS) held a virtual community “Guiding Principles” workshop on the Campo Road Revitalization Plan on Thursday, October 15, from 4:00-5:30 p.m. Up to 78 community members participated virtually in the workshop.


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DRIVER SERIOUSLY INJURED ON STATE ROUTE 94 NEAR BARRETT JUNCTION

East County News Service
 
October 12, 2020 (Barrett Junction) – The driver of a black 2014 Honda Civic has been flown via air ambulance to Sharp Memorial Hospital after a serious accident at 7:50 a.m. on State Route 94 west, just east of Barrett Smith Road.
 
“For reasons still under investigation, the driver failed to maintain control of his vehicle and allowed the vehicle to drift off the north side of the roadway.  The vehicle traveled down a descending rock and dirt embankment where it rolled over several times,” a California Highway Patrol (CHP) press release states.
 
CHP and CAL Fire personnel responded to the collision.  The driver, who appeared to be wearing a seat-belt, sustained major injuries.  Rescue personal were able to transport the driver back up to the roadway, where he was taken to the hospital via medical helicopter. 

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MISSING DESCANSO MAN, 81, AT RISK: LAST SEEN IN GOLD TOYOTA TRUCK

Update October 13, 2020: This missing person has been found safely in Yuma.

By Miriam Raftery

October 11, 2020 (Descanso) – The Sheriff asks for public help to find Kenneth Zimmerman, 81, who suffers from Alzheimer’s and did not take his blood pressure medicine before leaving home in Descanso to get a newspaper earlier today. He was last seen at 12:30 p.m. driving toward Highway 79 from Viejas Blvd in Descanso in a gold Toyota Tundra(license CA 8E41946) with a black toolbox in the bed.  He frequents businesses in Alpine as well as the El Cajon Home Depot.

He does not have a cell phone with him, according to a bulletin issued by the Pine Valley Sheriff’s station.Zimmerman was last seen wearing a white cowboy hat, dark blue short-sleeve shirt and blue jeans.  He has blue eyes and white hair. He is white, 81, 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs around 190 pounds.


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DECEPTIVE MAILERS TARGET VOTERS IN GROSSMONT-UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT

 

By Miriam Raftery

October 11, 2020 (La Mesa – El Cajon) – Republican Jim Stieringer, who is running for the Grossmont Union High School District’s Area 2 seat, has sent a deceptive mailer to some voters in La Mesa, El Cajon, Mt. Helix and Casa de Oro.  It reads, “East County Voters – Let’s support our progressive team!”  The flyer includes photos of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, as well as Democratic Congressional candidates Ammar Campa-Najjar and Sara Jacobs, Democratic Assemblymember Shirley Weber, and Stieringer.

There are three candidates in the race. Although this is officially a nonpartisan race and party affiliations do not appear on the ballot, both major parties have made endorsements. Elva Salinas, the incumbent and a community college professor, is the only candidate endorsed by the Democratic Party as well as the teacher’s union. The other two candidates, Stieringer and Justin Slagle, have both been long-serving Republicans but only Slagle is endorsed by the GOP.

Stieringer also refers to himself as the “high school district’s newest member” on the flip side of the mailer. He fails to mention that he lost reelection as a GUHSD trustee to Salinas in 2016 when the district shifted from at-large elections to trustee districts.


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LA MESA-SPRING VALLEY SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION, PART ONE: AREA 4

By Robin N. Kendall

Photo:  Area 4 candidates Emma Turner, Abu-Bakr Al Jafri, and Sarah Rhiley

October 7, 2020 (La Mesa-Spring Valley) -- Two out of five trustee seats will be on the ballot this year for certain residents of the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District. One seat is held by current Board President Dr. Emma Turner, who is running for re-election against four opponents in Area 4. This area includes Bancroft, Sweetwater Springs and Loma Elementary Schools. Five candidates are running, and three sent in responses to our questionnaire.  Scroll down to view responses from Emma Turner, Sarah Rhiley, and Abu-Bakr Al-Jafri.

The other trustee seat was filled by Jim Long, whose term has expired. That seat will be filled by a newcomer from Area 5 which includes Avondale, Rancho, and La Presa Elementary Schools, as well as STEAM Academy and Kempton Literacy Academy. The Area 5 race will be covered in part two of this series.


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ALPINE FIRE RESCUES MOTORIST TRAPPED IN ROLLOVER CRASH

By Miriam Raftery

October 10, 2020 (Alpine) –  Crews from Alpine Fire and Mercy Ambulance responded to a rollover accident on South Grade Road this morning, freeing a motorist trapped in the overturned car.

“Extrication tools were used to remove one of the passenger doors in order to get the driver out. One patient was transported to the hospital for evaluation,” Alpine Fire posted on Instagram, promptly drawing 117 likes and a response of “Well done, gentlemen!” from one local follower.


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