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'Vallecito Lighting Complex' fires now 100 percent contained; total of 22,829 acres burned
Wednesday, August 15th, 2012
Issue 33, Volume 16.
Statistics were finalized as follows:
*Stewart Fire - 10,632 acres (E/of Hwy 78, S/of Grapevine Canyon)
*Wilson Fire - 11,669 acres (S/of S22, W/of Borrego Springs)
*Vallecito Fire - 519 acres (E/of Hwy 79, N/of Anza Borrego State Park)
*Cooper Fire - 3 acres (Chihuahua Valley Rd., E/of Hwy 79)
*Wynola Fire - 3 acres (Hwy 79 at Wynola)
*Porter Fire - 2 acres (Hwy 79 near Vulcan Mountain)
*Shoots Fire - 1 acre, (West of Cooper Fire)
Remaining fire crews will continue to mop up hot spots and patrol the fire perimeter. The California State Parks and Recreation and the Cal Fire Suppression Repair Team is working to mitigate the effects of fire control activities and prepare for potential erosion due to forecasted precipitation. Significant demobilization of firefighting resources continues. Firefighters and equipment will be working along roadways, please use caution in the area.
Fires in northeastern S.D. County 'Vallecito Complex' almost fully contained; road closures have been lifted
SAN DIEGO - According to a report issued by Cal Fire at 7:30 a.m. today, Sat., August 18, the largest fires in the group of fires known as the Vallecito Lightning Complex are almost fully contained.
Cal Fire Battalion Chief Nick Schuler reported that the Stewart Fire, now at 10,632 acres is reportedly 100% contained and the Wilson Fire, which is 11,669 acres is 95% contained.
All road closures were lifted last night at 5:30 p.m., Schuler said.
An update provided at 8:35 a.m. today, Friday, August 17, by Cal Fire stated that the group of fires in northeastern San Diego county is well over 22,000 acres and is 85 percent contained.
"Firefighters made significant progress on fire containment overnight," said Cal Fire Chief Michael Mohler. "Firefighters will continue their efforts to fully contain both the Stewart and Wilson Fires." The Stewart Fire is currently 10,630 acres with 90 percent containment; the Wilson Fire is 11,691 acres with 75 percent containment.
"Firefighting resources remain committed to support active and contingency operations throughout all affected communities," said Mohler. "With the predicted extreme weather in the area of the Vallecito Complex today, resources will remain ready to respond to any unexpected fire behavior."
Cal Fire's Roxanne Provanik explained, "There remains a substantial risk of thunderstorm downdrafts. These winds have the potential to cause extreme fire behavior (spotting in excess of .10 miles and rapid spread rates) which will continue to challenge control lines as storms pass over the fire area."
Mohler said evacuation orders have been lifted for the residents of Ranchita and San Felipe.
"Evacuated large animals will be returned by SD County Animal Services and SD Humane Society on Saturday, August 18," said Mohler. "Large animals may be picked up by residents prior to Saturday by contacting Animal Services at (619) 236-2341 or the Humane Society at (619) 299-7012, Ext. 2466."
Most roadways have been reopened, with some restriction, said Mohler.
"Access to San Felipe will be for residents only and will only be available via S2 at S22. S2 remains closed at Scissors Crossing," he said.
Provaznik said the cost incurred to suppress these fires is very close to $5.9 million at this time.
Four firefighters have been injured fighting these wildfires that were caused by lightning.
Currently working to suppress these fires are 85 fire engines, 48 fire crews, 13 bulldozers, 12 helicopters, and 1,552 personnel.
Crews gain ground on northeastern S.D. County lightning fires
SAN DIEGO (wire service update as of 9 pm) - About 400 residents of two back-country hamlets east of Julian remained under evacuation orders tonight as firefighters continued to make steady headway against a succession of lightning-sparked blazes that have raged over more than 19,500 open acres this week, sending suppression cost up to more than $5 million.
Four of the six burn areas were fully contained as of this morning, but the two largest -- the Stewart and Wilson fires -- were only partially surrounded and remained potential threats to the roughly 180 homes in the Ranchita and San Felipe communities, authorities said.
"Although the threat has lessened, engine crews remain in the community of Ranchita for structure defense," said Cal Fire Capt. Mike Mohler.
Still, by early afternoon the progress of air and ground crews allowed the county to reopen state Route 78, which had been closed between Scissors Crossing and Borrego Springs due to the blazes, collectively dubbed the Vallecito Lightning Complex.
San Felipe Valley Road, which runs south and west of the site of the Stewart Fire, remained off-limits to the public as of 6:30 p.m.
No structural damage has been reported, but three firefighters have suffered minor injuries, including heat exhaustion and a foot problem, according to Cal Fire.
As of late this evening, the Stewart Fire had charred some 7,100 acres and was 50 percent surrounded, and the Wilson Fire was at about 12,000 acres and 65 percent containment, Mohler said. The two blazes were close to merging, Mohler said.
"Completing the fire line in rocky areas is taking longer than expected," Mohler said.
In the early afternoon, stiff winds were gusting and more thunderheads were looming in the skies over eastern San Diego County, but the weather was not seriously hampering the ground and air personnel laboring to subdue the flames and smoldering hot spots.
By 3 p.m., the blustery conditions -- which generated scattered raindrops but no reports of lightning -- were dissipating, though they were likely to return Friday, according to Mohler.
"There remains a substantial risk of thunderstorm downdrafts," Mohler said. "These winds have the potential to cause extreme fire behavior which will continue to challenge control lines as storms pass over the fire area."
About 1,550 crew members were battling the fires from the ground and the air, using 85 fire engines, 14 helicopters, 13 bulldozers and 29 water trucks.
On Wednesday, personnel from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar answered a call from state officials to join in the fight against the blazes. The northern San Diego USMC base sent eight helicopters -- CH-53 Super Stallions and CH-46 Sea Knights -- to help shuttle personnel to the fire lines and make water drops.
Electrical storms began sparking the series of wildfires on Sunday night.
The first, dubbed the Vallecito Fire, blackened about 520 acres southeast of Julian, while the Cooper Fire to north, and the Wynola Fire, off state Route 79, each spread over roughly three acres.
Yet another blaze, named the Shoots Fire, erupted this morning. It scorched less than an acre before crews knocked it down.
By 9 p.m., the Vallecito Lightning Complex had burned 19,625 acres and 70 percent contained, Mohler said. Suppression costs were calculated up to $5.47 million with one more mile of containment line to construct.
An emergency shelter was in place at Warner Springs High School for evacuees, who received word Tuesday afternoon via the county's "reverse 911" that they needed to clear out of their homes.
Members of the public with questions about evacuations or road closures were encouraged to call Cal Fire's local information line at (619) 590-3160 or follow the agency's progress via Twitter, at calfiresandiego.
Cal Fire announces Highway 78 now open; S-2 still closed between Scissors Crossing & Highway 79; fire suppression continues
Steady progress is reportedly being made in extinguishing the group of fires in northeastern San Diego County referred to as the Vallecito Lightning Complex, according to Cal Fire.
Cal Fire Chief Michael Mohler provided an update at 8:20 a.m. today, Thursday, August 16,
"Firefighters continue to make good progress, but there is still a considerable amount of open fire line," said Mohler. "Extreme terrain and distance from roads are making access to fires difficult for ground resources."
Mohler said with the significant fire history of the area and the predicted change in wind direction, firefighting resources remain committed to support active and contingency operations throughout all affected communities.
"A threat continues to exist to the 69KV electrical distribution lines in Grapevine Canyon that serve thecommunities of Borrego Springs, Warner Springs, and Ranchita," said Mohler.
Mohler appealed to the driving public to be cautious during this time for firefighter safety.
"Firefighters continue to work near roadways and we ask that you reduce your speed for their safety," he said.
Listed below is the current status of each fire in the Vallecito Lightning Complex:
*Stewart Fire: 7,000 acres, 50 percent contained (E/of Hwy 78, S/of Grapevine Canyon)
*Wilson Fire: 8,000 acres, 65 percent contained (S/of S22, W/of Borrego Springs)
*Vallecito Fire: 519 acres, 100 percent contained (E/of Hwy 79, N/of Anza Borrego State Park)
*Cooper Fire: 3 acres, 100 percent contained (Chihuahua Valley Rd., E/of Hwy 79)
*Wynola Fire: 3 acres, 100 percent contained, (Hwy 79 at Wynola)
All the fires in this group have been caused by lightning, authorities have said.
Resources currently being used on this group of fires include: 77 fire engines, 48 fire crews, 8 bulldozers, 15 helicopters, and 1,454 personnel.
Three people have been injured in these incidents. No structures have been damaged or destroyed.
Mandatory evacuations are still in place for the communities of Ranchita & San Felipe with shelter set up at Warner Springs High School.
Road closures still in effect include Highway 78 between Scissors Crossing and Borrego Springs; S3 between Scissors Crossing and Borrego Springs; and S2 between Highway 79 and Borrego Springs.
Agencies working together to battle the blazes include: Cal Fire, San Diego County Fire Authority, US Forest Service, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, Cal EMA, Bureau of Land Management, California Department of Parks and Recreation, Caltrans, California Conservation Corps, California Department of Fish and Game, United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, American Red Cross, San Diego Animal Control, San Diego Humane Society, San Diego Gas and Electric, SD Public Works, and numerous local firefighting agencies throughout the state.
Additional Information: Residents who need more information can contact the Vallecito Lightning Complex Information Line at: (619) 590-3160, or go to www.fire.ca.gov.
Cal Fire calls in 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing/Miramar to help fight wildfires in northeastern S.D. County
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. (Aug. 15, 2012) – Today, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) has been requested by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) to assist with the wildfires burning in eastern San Diego County."
3rd MAW will provide eight helicopters, a mix of CH-53 Super Stallions and CH-46 Sea Knights, for use with CAL FIRE under the Defense Support of Civil Authorities process. These assets will be used in conjunction with CAL FIRE aerial resources to shuttle firefighters to the firelines and for water dropping. Joint training is conducted annually by the two organizations to prepare for such firefighting emergencies. The last training was conducted in May 2012.
The CH-53 Super Stallions belong to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadrons 462, 465 and 466, Marine Aircraft Group 16, and are stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The CH-46 Sea Knights belong to Marine Medium Helicopter Training Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, and are stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton.
Update provided by Cal Fire on multiple fires in northeastern San Diego County
At 8 a.m. this morning, Wed., August 15, Cal Fire provided an update on the multiple fires in northeastern San Diego County. These fires are collectively being referred to as the Vallecito Complex.
At this time, mandatory evacuations remain in place for the communities of Ranchita and San Felipe. The evacuation center has been established at Warner Springs High School.
Road closures that are in effect currently include Highway 78 between Scissors Crossing and Borrego Springs, S3 between Scissors Crossing and Borrego Springs, and S22 between S2 and Borrego Springs.
Listed below is the status of each fire at this time:
*Vallecito Fire: 519 acres, 100% contained (East of Hwy 79, north of Anza Borrego State Park)
*Cooper Fire, 3 acres, 100% contained (Chihuahua Valley Rd., east of Hwy 79)
*Stewart Fire: 3,800 acres, 0% contained (East of Hwy 78, south of Grapevine Canyon)
*Wilson Fire: 5,000 acres, 5% contained, (South of S22, west of Borrego Springs)
*Wynola Fire: 3 acres, 100% contained (Hwy 79 at Wynola)
Fighting these fires are 77 fire engines, 48 fire crews, 8 bulldozers, 14 helicopters and 1,453 personnel. Two injuries have been sustained. No structures have been damaged.
According to Fire Captain Michael Mohler of Cal Fire, "Firefighters continue to make progress, though there is still a considerable amount of open fire line. Extreme terrain and distance from roads are making access to fires difficult for ground resources. With the significant fire history of the area and the predicted extreme weather, firefighting resources remain committed to support active and contingency operations throughout all affected communities. A threat continues to exist to the 69KV electrical distribution lines in Grapevine Canyon that serve the communities of Borrego Springs, Warner Springs, and Ranchita."
Mohler said agencies involved in the firefighting effort include Cal Fire, San Diego County Fire Authority, US Forest Service, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, California Department of Parks & Recreation, Cal EMA, Bureau of Land Management, Caltrans, California Conservation Corps, American Red Cross, San Diego Gas and Electric, and numerous local firefighting agencies throughout the state.
Residents in the fire areas who need more information can contact the Vallecito Lightning Complex Information Line at: (619) 590-3160, or go to www.fire.ca.gov.
***Latest report from the news wire service issued at 8:45 a.m. Wed., August 15, regarding these fires is related below. Please be advised some of this information is redundant to that reported above.***
SAN DIEGO (Wire Service) - Hundreds of rural East County residents were under mandatory evacuation orders today as more than 1,000 firefighters battled five lightning-sparked brush fires -- three that are fully contained and two that are threatening to merge.
The roughly 400 evacuees, who were told to vacate their premises late Tuesday afternoon by the county's reverse 911 system, live in the unincorporated community of Ranchita and in the San Felipe area off Highway 78, according to Cal Fire. Residents were invited to take shelter at Warner Springs High School.
Evacuation orders remained in effect this morning as Cal Fire reported that around 400 structures were threatened. Multiple road and highway closures between Borrego Springs, Julian and Ranchita were also in effect early today.
"Firefighters continue to make progress, though there is still a considerable amount of open fire line," said Cal Fire Capt. Mike Mohler. "Extreme terrain and distance from roads are making access to fires difficult for ground resources"
Mohler added that fire continues to threaten the 69-kilovolt electrical distribution lines in Grapevine Canyon that serve Borrego Springs, Warner Springs and Ranchita.
Cal Fire said 1,453 firefighters are fighting the five fires from the ground and the air. The fires -- collectively known as the Vallecito Lightning Complex -- scorched 9,325 acres as of 7 a.m. today, according to the agency.
The first of the blazes was the Vallecito Fire, which charred 519 acres southeast of Julian since around 8 p.m. Sunday and was 100 percent contained as of Tuesday night, Cal Fire reported.
The three other fires -- the Wilson, Stewart and Cooper fires -- each erupted Monday afternoon, scorching ground northeast of Julian, near Scissors Crossing. Cal Fire reported that the Wilson Fire burned 5,000 acres and was 5 percent contained as of this morning; the Stewart Fire blackened 3,800 acres, with zero percent containment; and the Cooper Fire burned over only three acres and was 100 percent contained.
The fifth fire -- the Wynola Fire -- broke out Tuesday and scorched three acres in the Wynola area. It was 100 percent contained as of Tuesday night, Cal Fire reported.
Authorities said the Wilson and Stewart fires could merge today.
No structure losses have been reported, but two firefighters were injured, including one who suffered from heat exhaustion, according to Cal Fire.
The firefighters from Cal Fire and other departments assigned to the five fires have been supported by 77 fire engines, 48 fire crews, 14 helicopters, eight bulldozers and 28 water tenders, authorities said.
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