Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fire in Lakeside...

We had a bit of a scare yesterday.  First Debbie spotted a plume to our northwest that looked like smoke (sometimes it's hard to distinguish between clouds and smoke; the color can be quite similar).  Shortly after that our Internet connection went down (it works by a radio link to Alpine, 18 miles to our north).  I called our Internet provider, and he wasn't sure what the cause was, but his three valley networks centered on Alpine were all down.  He'd heard that the fire was in the Harbison Canyon or Crest area – and that was very worrying to us, as those communities are actually quite close to us, in precisely the direction that smoke was coming from.  The news outlets (as usual) were useless, so I jumped into my truck to go take a look.

As I drove up Skyline Truck Trail, just before topping the hill that leads down to the town of Jamul, I got a view of Cajon Mountain in the distance. It was clearly burning, with smoke trails originating at various points on its south face (the side toward me).  This was a bit of a relief to me, as Cajon Mountain is much further away from us than Crest and Harbison Canyon.  Also comforting were the first news reports, which started coming in right around the same time.  They placed the fire in the area of El Monte Road, just south of Cajon Mountain.

I drove on through Harbison Canyon (no sign of fire there!) and up to Interstate 8.  Then I drove west on 8, grabbing the two photos with my cell phone and scoping out where the fire was.  I could see aircraft on the fire, and engine companies on the ground (news reports said over 20 companies were on the job), so it looked like the fire response was terrific.  This is so, so good for us to see after the debacle we lived through in 2007.  The map at right (also online) is my rough eyeball estimate of the fire's location.  I could be off by the proverbial country mile, so don't take it as anything other than an estimate, please. 

By this morning's early light we can see no smoke coming from Cajon Mountain.  There are no updates to the news reports from yesterday, which variously claim that between 2,000 and 3,000 acres burned.  Some people (including two climbers) were rescued by helicopter, but so far as I can tell nobody was hurt and no structures were damaged. 

One thing that's a little disconcerting for us chaparralies: Cajon Mountain completely burned over in 2007.  Here we are, just under three years later, and there's already enough fuel there to sustain another wildfire.  Sheesh!

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