TORCHED: ARSON CAUSED EAGLE FIRE, CAL FIRE REVEALS

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By Miriam Raftery

 

July 27, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) – Cal Fire investigators have determined that arson is the cause of the Eagle Fire, which has thus far burned 14,100 acres and injured 14 firefighters.

 

Who set the blaze, and what was the motive? Cal-Fire has not disclosed details on how the fire was started, or if there are any suspects. If caught, the perpetrator could face not only jail time, but a hefty bill--since firefighting costs now exceed $11.6 million.

 

The blaze was reported on July 21st at 10:40 p.m. on the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation near Warner Springs. Investigators have not disclosed the precise ignition point, though an authority close to the situation has confirmed that the fire did not start near Highway 79. Two other sources familiar with the reservation have informed ECM that the fire appears to have started on the side of the Reservation leased by Eagle Rock Training Center (now called ERTC), a private military training facility founded by Brian Bonfiglio, former Vice President of Blackwater USA (now known as XE).

 

ERTC leases 25,000 acres for its facilities, which include mock Afghanistan villages, shooting ranges and a helicopter pad. Security is reportedly tight with fencing containing training operations. View a video tour of the facility at Channel 8 news: http://www.cbs8.com/story/14723743/news-8-takes-rare-tour-inside-eagle-r...

 

At 11:50 p.m., soon after first reports on the fire, a “senior member” poster named DDan at the Wildland Firefighters website was advising fellow firefighters to access “through San Ignacio past the guard shacks.” That post has since been removed.

 

Bonfiglio confirmed in an interview with Julie Pendray at Ramona Patch that the guard shack is the outbuilding reported burned. View photos at the Ramona Patch site of the burned guard shack, taken by a blogger: http://ramona.patch.com/articles/calfires-investigation-of-the-eagle-fir...

 

Patch reported that “When a Patch reporter visited the reservation Friday morning, there was a "Road Closed" sign on Camino San Ignacio Road, which leads up the hill from Warner Springs into the leased area on the reservation. The sign was just east of the Los Coyotes Campground, which is reported to be the only area on the reservation that is made open to the public.”

Warmer temperatures and lower humidity continue to challenge firefighters working toward fully containing the fire’s perimeter, though progress is being made, Cal-Fire reports. The Borrego Palm Canyon Campground and Trail remain closed in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, along with the Lost Valley Boy Scout Camp. As of this evening, the fire is 65% contained and burning towards the northwest.