Rural communities

FIREFIGHTERS SAVE HOMES, HALT CAMPO FIRE IN SPRING VALLEY

Story and photos by Josh Stotler

January 20, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – At 12:42 pm today, firefighters were called to the corner of Campo Road and CR17 for a wind driven brush fire that immediately threatened homes and property across from Skyline Church near the boundary of Spring Valley and Rancho San Diego.

MISSING SPRING VALLEY WOMAN IN RED SUBARU FORRESTER

Update 8:54 p.m.:  Sally Yako has been found and is home safe with her family, Sgt. Hettinger has advised ECM.

Photo: Red Subaru Forrester, similar to vehicle driven by Sally Yako

By Miriam Raftery

January 20, 2021 (Spring Valley) – The Sheriff seeks public help to find Sally Yako, who has dementia and epilepsy. She left her Spring Valley home around 1 p.m. yesterday, driving her red 2008 Subaru Forrester (license 6KFX846).  She crossed into Mexico at San Ysidro and was seen returning to the U.S. through the same port of entry at 8:51 p.m. last night, says Sgt. Michael Hettinger.

BICYCLIST AND MOTORCYCLIST KILLED IN CRASH ON OTAY LAKES ROAD

By Miriam Raftery

January 14, 2021 (Jamul) – A deadly collision on Otay Lakes Road in Jamul on January 10th shortly before 10 a.m. claimed the lives of a motorcyclist and a bicyclist.

The victims are identified as Jonathan Michael Charbonnet, 43, and Julias Kim G. Cunanan, 40, both of Chula Vista.  Charbonnet was riding a motorcycle eastbound when for unknown reasons, he struck Cunanan, who was riding with a group of bicyclists

HELP SOUGHT TO FIND MAN LAST SEEN AT SYCUAN CASINO IN DECEMBER

By Miriam Raftery

January 14, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – The San Diego Sheriff’s department seeks public help to locate Matthew Patton, 30. He was last seen on Dec. 10 around 7 p.m. leaving Sycuan Casino Resort in unincorporated El Cajon.

According to the Sheriff’s department, Patton met a friend the day before at Viejas Casino & Resort in Alpine. The pair later met up at Sycuan, where Patton reportedly stayed and continued gambling.

Patton was last seen walking toward Dehesa Road. He was wearing a white Nike hoodie and dark jeans.

NEW RANCHO HELIX DE ORO FIRE SAFE COUNCIL OFFERS FIRE-SAFE TIPS

By Miriam Raftery

January 14, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) --Under the authority of the Fire Safe Council of San Diego County, the Rancho Helix De Oro is a newly formed fire safe council dedicated to educating and preparing our community in order to avoid devastating fires. The group has created an educational fire-safe flyer  (click link to view flyer) with information including tips for fire safety, an evacuation map, who to call during an emergency, and how to get emergency notification for the communities of Rancho San Diego, Mt. Helix and Casa de Oro.

The new group was formed with support from then-County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, the Grossmont-Mt. Helix Improvement Association, Valle de Oro Planning Group, Casa De Oro Alliance, and community members in collaboration with San Miguel Fire and Rescue, Cal Fire, San Diego County Sheriff, San Diego Gas & Electric, and the Fire Safe Council of San Diego County.

TREES REMOVED FROM ALPINE’S SOUTH GRADE CURVE TO IMPROVE VISIBILITY FOR MOTORISTS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  South Grade Road before the S curve near Scenic View Park

January 12, 2021 (Alpine) – In response to complaints over obstruction of visibility for drivers, several large trees have been removed from the s-curve on South Grade Road in Alpine near the intersection with Scenic View. A smaller oak tree growing below power lines was also taken out, confirms Hector Licon Jr., vegetation manager for the County Public Works Department.

MIGUEL FIRE HALTED AT 20 ACRES

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left, by J. Stotler  @2412_Fire_Photo : U.S. Forest Service Helitac landing

January 9, 2020 (Chula Vista) – The #MiguelFire northeast of Mt. Miguel Road and Proctor Valley Road scorched approximately20 acres on December 7. 

View aerial video of the fire courtesy of Cal Fire’s tactical aircraft:  https://twitter.com/i/status/1347287650890371079.

HOMICIDE DETECTIVES INVESTIGATING AFTER BODY FOUND IN CAMPO

East County News Service
 
January 8, 2021 (Campo) – The Sheriff’s Homicide Unit is investigating the death of Paul Anthony Castello, a 32-year-old Campo resident. His body was found by Border Patrol agents near Shockey Truck Trail and State Route 94 in Campo, Wednesday, shortly after 8 a.m.
 
Sheriff's deputies and fire personnel responded. Unfortunately, Castello was pronounced deceased at the scene by fire personnel. Based on the injuries and circumstances, the Sheriff's Homicide Unit responded and has assumed responsibility of the investigation. 

WOMAN KILLED STORMING CAPITOL HAD SPRING VALLEY TIES

By Miriam Raftery

January 7, 2021 (Spring Valley) – A woman shot and killed by police while breaking into the Speaker's gallery inside the U.S. Capitol during yesterday’s insurrection has been identified as Ashli Babbitt. An Air Force veteran describe by KUSI as a “high level security officer” during her military service, Babbitt was the CEO of Fowler’s Pool Service & Supply in Spring Valley, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.  10 News reports that she grew up in Lakeside.

Although some sites have described her as an "unarmed protester," her documented actions went far beyond Constitutionally protected protest activities. The New York Post has published video showing the moment when Babbitt was shot while climbing through a broken window in the Capitol, attempting to illegally access the House chamber where Congressional members were holding a hearing on certifying the Electoral College votes from the presidential election.  (Warning: graphic content).

The video shows armed officers rushing up stairs into a crowd of insurrectionists intent on disrupting the peaceful transfer of power process, many wearing MAGA hats as they attempt to break down a barricaded set of doors. The crowd lifted up Babbitt, who was wearing a backpack with a flag as she attempted to climb through a broken window in one of the doors, when she was shot by law enforcement.

30,000 AT RISK OF POWER SHUTOFFS DEC. 23-24 DUE TO RED FLAG WARNING

By Miriam Raftery

December 22, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – SDG&E has notified around 30,000 customers that their power could be shut off due to high fire danger.  The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for parts of Southern California due to possible strong winds from 8 a.m. Wednesday through 12 p.m. Thursday, Christmas Eve. The communities at risk range from El Cajon east to Campo, north to Escondido and mountain areas such as Julian, and as far south as Potrero near the border.

The threat of losing electricity in mid-winter during Christmas week is disheartening for backcountry residents, many of whom have stocked up refrigerators and freezers for holiday feasts. ECM has received complaints from residents who report SDG&E refused to reimburse them for food spoiled during other recent outages. Coming at a time when many are without jobs or have businesses with little income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the prospect of financial losses due to power outages or worse, a wildfire are particularly troubling.

ALPINE’S JEFF CAMPBELL’S GIFT BAG DRIVE, A HOLIDAY COLLECTION TRADITION BENEFITING CHARITIES, NOW IN ITS 22ND YEAR

East County News Service

December 20, 2020 (Alpine) – Alpine real estate broker Jeff Campbell of San Diego Estates is celebrating his 22nd annual Gift Bag Drive, a holiday collection drive benefiting several local charities.

More than 25 businesses in Alpine, including banks, retail stores, insurance offices and coffee shops, have hosted collection bins where residents have donated nonperishable canned food items, personal hygiene items and unwrapped children’s toys beginning in mid-November, said Campbell. New this year has been a donation of several hundred jackets, shirts and hoodies from an El Centro-based embroidery company that closed its doors.

Campbell said the deadline for donations is Tuesday, Dec. 22.

DRIVER ARRESTED FOR MANSLAUGHTER, DUI AFTER KILLING CONSTRUCTION WORKER ON HIGHWAY 94

East County News Service
 
Photo: Creative Commons via Bing
 
December 17, 2020 (Spring Valley) – Arnold Lee Patton, 69, of San Diego has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter.  

CAMPO MAN DIES AFTER CRASH NEAR LAKE MORENA

East County News Service
 
Image cc via Bing
 
December 16, 2020 (Campo) – Barney Stence, 60, of Campo, died December 14 in Sharp hospital of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident on December 9.
 
Stence was involved in a single-vehicle rollover crash at 1880 Lake Morena Drive in Campo, after losing control of his vehicle for unknown reasons. He was transported to the hospital with serious injuries, but his condition continued to decline until his death was pronounced on Monday, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner.
 

SHERIFF SEEKS WITNESSES TO DEADLY SHOOTING IN SPRING VALLEY PARKING LOT

By Miriam Raftery
 
Photo: Creative Commons via Bing
 
December 14, 2020 (Spring Valley) – Last night just after 8:20 p.m., Sheriff’s deputies responded to a report of a shooting in a parking lot at 8600 Jamacha Rd., Spring Valley.  Deputies found 39-years-old Carlos Enrique Callejas, of Chula Vista, who had been shot.
 
Deputies attempted lifesaving measures and were relieved by San Miguel Fire Department paramedics, but they were unable to revive the victim, who was pronounced dead at the scene, says Lt. Thomas Seiver with the San Diego County Sheriff’s department.
 
The Sheriff's Homicide Unit responded and has assumed responsibility of the investigation. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Homicide Unit at (858) 285- 6330/after hours at (858) 565-5200. You can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

SUPERVISORS DELAY DECISION ON RENEWABLE ENERGY OVERLAY OPTIONS UNTIL JAN. 27

East County News Service

 

December 13, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – San Diego County Supervisors have voted to delay until January 27, 2021 a decision on Renewable Energy Overlay Options originally slated for Dec. 9, 2020.  The options aim to streamline approval of industrial-scale wind and solar projects across much of East County’s rural, mountain and desert areas.

JAMUL INDIAN VILLAGE OF CALIFORNIA'S CHAIRWOMAN, ERICA M. PINTO, ELECTED CHAIR OF SOUTHERN INDIAN HEALTH COUNCIL, INC.

Chairwoman expands efforts to improve lives of Native peoples

East County News Service

December 10, 2020 (Jamul) - On Monday, November 30, Erica M. Pinto, Chairwoman of The Jamul Indian Village of California (JIV), was elected Chair of the Southern Indian Health Council, Inc. (SIHC).  The SIHC, founded in 1982, is a Native American organization which aims to protect and improve the physical, mental, and spiritual health of the Native American community.  Having intermittently served on the 14-member SIHC board since 2004, Ms. Pinto will begin her two-year term as Chair in January 2021.  The Chairwoman, who was honored last month with the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of California’s highest honor, the Warrior Award, has become a recognized leader in the effort to improve the lives of Native peoples.

TIME RUNNING OUT FOR VALLEY FIRE SURVIVORS TO APPLY FOR FEMA ASSISTANCE

By Donnie Ryan, County of San Diego Communications Office

Photo: Valley Fire, by Ron Kasper Dronesystems

December 9, 2020 (San Diego's East County) -There is only one week left for San Diego County homeowners and renters affected by the Valley Fire in September to apply for a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant, as the assistance program is scheduled to end Dec. 15.

The FEMA grant program is 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.

FUND STARTED TO HELP RANCHO SAN DIEGO COUPLE THAT LOST HOME IN WILLOW FIRE

By Miriam Raftery

Photos by Henri Migala

December 8, 2020 (Rancho San Diego) – GoFundMe has notified East County Magazine that a fundraising page has been set up to assist Doug and Michele Howarth, retired local educators whose home was destroyed in the Willow Fire on December 2.

The GoFundMe page for the Howarths states, “The Howarth’s lost everything in the Willow fires last night as they watched their home go up in flames. Doug barely got out in his PJs as his wife, Michele, watched on TV in Carlsbad while she was visiting her daughter Gwendolyn P.”  The fundraising page was set up by Josie Kasyouhannon on behalf of Gwendolyn Pavlick.

”Please help this kind and generous couple who have resided in our community for decades. Michele Howarth was a first grade teacher at Vista Grande Elementary School and is now retired. Doug Howarth worked as a guidance counselor at Cuyamaca Community College,” the site states.”Please help donate to help rebuild their lives. Every donation helps.” To date, around $12,000 has been donated.

POWER OUT FOR OVER 15,000 SDG&E CUSTOMERS AMID HIGH WINDS, RED FLAG WARNING: RESOURCE CENTERS NOW OPEN

Fire burning in Mexico near Tecate is visible across East County

By Miriam Raftery

December 8, 2020 (San Diego’s East County)—With wind speeds up to 65 miles per  hour reported last night, SDG&E has shut off power to 15,441 customers in rural, high desert and mountain areas as of 9 a.m. today, with shut-offs possible for another 45,042 customers. Expected restoration time is 6 p.m. tomorrow night in most areas without power, according to SDG&E’s outage map.

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning extended through Wednesday night, due to high fire danger from gusty Santa Ana winds and low humidity. A high wind warning is also in effect locally.

The Alpine Union, Valley Center-Pauma Unified and Warner Unfied school districts have cancelled classes today due power shutoffs and high winds.

A brush fire burning in Mexico near Tecate cast a red glow overnight visible across much of East County. Cal Fire reports the fire is well within Mexico and is not considered a threat to the U.S. at this time. (Photo, right, viewed from Campo, by Don Lumb)

SDG&E has set up community resource centers from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. today in Descanso (9545 River Drive), Julian (17606 Harrison Park Rd), Potrero (24550 Highway 94), Ramona (1275 Main St.), Valley Center (29200 Cole Grade Rd.), and Warner Springs (30950 Highway 79.)

FAA REVERSES APPROVAL OF CAMPO WIND PROJECT

By Miriam Raftery

December 5, 2020 (Campo) – The Federal Aviation Administration has reversed its earlier approval of the controversial Campo Wind project and related Boulder Brush Facilities.The project would erect 60 wind turbines, each 586 feet tall, on tribal land close to tribal and non-tribal homes in rural East County. (image, left)

In its remand letter dated Dec. 2, the FAA admitted to errors in its aeronautical study proceess.

The action comes in response to a petition for review raised by the nonprofit Backcountry Against Dumps along with Boulevard residents Ed and Donna Tisdale, whose property shares a half-mile border with the project site on the Campo Indian reservation.

SDG&E RESTORES POWER TO OVER HALF OF CUSTOMERS, BUT MANY RESIDENTS VOICE ANGER OVER SHUT-OFFS DURING COLD WEATHER

By Miriam Raftery
 
December 4, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – As of Friday morning, 32,797 customers of San Diego Gas & Electric remain without power, two days after the utility shut off electricity to more than 73,000 customers. SDG&E implemented the widespread planned outages to prevent power lines from sparking fires amid a red flag warning due to dry conditions and gusty Santa Ana winds.

A LONG NIGHT FOR FIREFIGHTERS BATTLING WILLOW FIRE

 

 

By Henri Migala and Miriam Raftery

Photos and videos by Henri Migala

December 3, 2020 (Rancho San Diego) – Thanks to the valiant response of firefighters from multiple districts across the region, the #WillowFire in Rancho San Diego was held to 30 acres overnight.  One home was destroyed and six others damaged, according to Cal Fire. 

But the damage could have been far worse, given that the fire started after dark amid howling Santa Ana wind conditions. (Video of high winds)

The fire started around 10:30 p.m. on Willow Glen Drive near Hillsdale Rd., swiftly racing through a canyon. Flames soon engulfed a home atop the ridge and scorched others, prompting late-night evacuations and a long night for both firefighters and residents.

KAREN DEVOS, SPRING VALLEY KNITTER EXTRAORDINAIRE, HELPS HOMELESS STAY WARM IN WINTER

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

(Photo of Karen DeVos courtesy of Nancy Rinard)                  

Dec. 3, 2020 (Spring Valley) -- Covenant Living at Mount Miguel, located in Spring Valley, has a resident devoted to helping others via her knitting needles.  That resident is Karen DeVos, a retired teacher and librarian. Her brand of inspiration is knitting beanies, sweaters, and even personalized Christmas stockings.  But in particular, she likes to donate her warm, soft beanies to the homeless.

DeVos donated 45 beanie caps to the homeless choir in San Diego, known as Voices of our City Choir. The group has been featured performing on America’s Got Talent. That connection to Voices of our City Choir came about after meeting Rob Thorsen, a bass player, who is married to the choir co-founder, Steph Johnson, at a jazz performance.

DeVos, 83, and her husband, John, 89, have lived in the Spring Valley facility for several years. They moved to California to be closer to their daughter and grandkids. The pandemic has curtailed socializing and getting to know other residents well, but she hopes that will change in the future.

“We wanted to bond with our grandchildren,” said DeVos. She has achieved that desire during the COVID19 pandemic through Zoom meetings and by reading books to them such as  “Summer of the Monkeys” by Wilson Rawls.

SDG&E OPENS RESOURCE CENTERS AFTER CUTTING POWER TO 73,000 CUSTOMERS

By Miriam Raftery

December 3, 2020 (San Diego's East County) -- SDG&E announced this morning that is has cut power to over 73,000 customers due to high winds and fire danger. The utility also announced,  that at 8 a.m. it will open 10 Community Resource Centers  at local libraries or community centers to provide support to those affected by Public Safety Power Shutoffs. The ceners will have water, snacks, charging stations for mobile phones and other devices, and in some areas, water trucks for livestock. (Bring your own vessel to transport water).

For locations of Community Resource Centers and updates on outages in your community, visit http://sdge.com/ready For safety, CDC guidelines will be enforced.

SDG&E reports record wind speeds recorded at its weather stations including gusts up to 94 miles per hour.

EL CAJON STABBING SUSPECT ARRESTED IN SPRING VALLEY

By Miriam Raftery
 
December 2, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – On October 23, a family member found Victor Saul Garcia Jr., 33, dead inside his home in the 1100 block of Marlene Avenue in EL Cajon.  El Cajon Police homicide detectives and the forensic lab determined that the victim had been stabbed several times after a struggle.

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.

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.

 

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.

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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