VALLEY FIRE THREATENS SUNRISE POWERLINK AND WATER SUPPLIES

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By Miriam Raftery

Photo via Lakeside Fire:  Firefighters battle Valley Fire for a second sleepless night amid record-breaking heat.

September 6, 2020, 9:30 p.m. (San Diego’s East County) – As firefighters battle the Valley Fire for a second sleepless night, the blaze has burned 9,850 acres, more than doubling since early this morning. It remains only  1% contained, with evacuation that now range south to the border, north past I-8 and Pine Valley, east to Campo, and as far west as portions of Jamul.

Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency for San Diego County.  Tonight, the fire is in the area of Lawson Valley and Carveacre, threatening Sunrise Powerlink, the major electricity supplier for most of our region, and Loveland Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to 191,000 residents, Cleveland National Forest reports.

An evacuation order is in place for Barrett Lake Dam. Evacuation warnings have been issued for Lake Morena, Dulzura, Dog Patch, Potrero, Campo, Honey Springs, Barrett Junction, Deerhorn Valley, Corte Madera, Pine Valley, and the area from Lyon Valley/Japatul Road to Interstate 8.

With power out in some areas, residents may be unable to receive evacuation calls.  Some residents have asked that if you receive an evacuation call or flee due to encroaching flames during the night, please honk your horn as you leave to alert as many neighbors as possible.

Evacuation centers have been set up at Steele Canyon High School, 12440 Campo Road in Spring Valley, and Joan MacQueen Middle School, 2001 Tavern Road, Alpine.  For evacuation information call the San Diego Sheriff at 858-565-3490.

The blaze began yesterday afternoon in the Japatul area.  The fire has destroyed 11 homes and 25 outbuildings.  

Firefighters continued to battle active fire driven by a critically dry fuel bed and record-breaking heat.  An update provided by Cal Fire in joint command with Cleveland National Forest reports “erratic fire behavior created significant fire growth.”

Currently there are 374 personnel battling the Valley Fire including 56 engines, 5 crews, 71 overhead personnel and 6 bulldozers—but no air tankers or helicopters operating tonight.

The report warns, “Due to lack of night-time moisture recovery, the fire is expected to remain active overnight.” Two injuries or illnesses are also reported; details were not provided.

Cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The fire is causing anguish for many area residents learning of homes lost and others spared.

Judy Matteson found that her home on Prairie Lane in the Lawson Valley area survived, but neighboring homes burned down. “The good luck, bad luck part of this, we sold our house last Thursday,” she told ECM, but adds that escrow hasn’t yet closed.  “Don't know how this will affect that process.” 

Still she’s more fortunate than neighbors who lost everything, including a woman who has asked for help to find a trailer or RV to live in until she can rebuild.

Photo, left: Lakeside Fire Engineer Denny Leech takes momentary rest after 26 straight hours of fighting the Valley Fire in heat up to 108 degrees.

Miriam Raftery, editor and founder of East County Magazine, has over 35 years of journalism experience. She has won more than 350 journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Press Club, and the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Her honors include the Sol Price Award for responsible journalism and three James Julian awards for public interest reporting from SPJ’s San Diego chapter. She has received top honors for investigative journalism, multicultural reporting, coverage of immigrant and refugee issues, politics, breaking news and more. Thousands of her articles have appeared in national and regional publications.

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