FIRE OFFICIALS SAY SHOCKEY FIRE CAUSE CAN'T BE DETERMINED; PRAISE CAMPO RESIDENTS FOR SAVING HOMES

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By Miriam Raftery

Cal Fire Captain Richard Stephan

October 27, 2008 (Campo) - The cause of the Shockey Fire,
which burned approximately 400 acres on October 15, will likely never be conclusively
determined, California Fire and Forestry  (Cal Fire) officials informed East County Magazine’s
editor during a recent visit at Campo’s fire station.

“We found the area of origin but the cause was undetermined,” said
Cal Fire Battalion Chief Pete Scully, who said he arrived at the fire scene
when flames had scorched less than three acres.

Two investigators, including one state and one federal investigator, have
ruled out power lines and vehicles as causes, Scully said.  “They
don’t suspect arson,” he said.

Scully revealed that a woman living near the junction of Highway 94 and Shockey
Truck Trail, where the fire began, “reported seeing a power line arcing.” 

Asked why investigators concluded the fire was not caused by power lines despite
the eyewitness report, Scully said a strong 50 mph northeast wind was blowing
in the opposite direction—toward the power line, not away from it. He
believed it was unlikely that the wind could have reversed direction after
the fire began.  

Cal Fire Captain Richard Stephan said migrants are suspected.  “They
found evidence of a place where people he had been gathering,” he said.  But
when asked whether those people might have been homeless, teenagers partying
or other parties, he replied, “It couldn’t positively be determined
if it was a migrant force.”  He said the cause of the fire will
remain undetermined.

No structures were lost in the blaze.

Stephan praised area residents for clearing brush around homes and preventing
a potentially severe firestorm from spreading out of control.

“If it wasn’t for the defensible space people had, it could’ve
been much worse,” he said, adding that Campo Hills, a major housing development
built by K.B. Homes, could have been lost.  “If there would have
been continuous fuel, it definitely would have burned into KB Homes.”

Miriam Raftery is a national award-winning journalist who has
headed up media watch committees for various local organizations and attended
a National Media Reform Conference covering issues of media bias, media justice
and media reform.