By Bob Graham
Published Tuesday, June 19, 2012
June 17, 2012 -- With warnings about high fire potential coming almost daily from fire officials, a small group of San Diegans got to experience first-hand how fast a brush fire can threaten havoc in San Diego’s canyons.
Many of the city’s neighborhoods are built on the rims of canyons, and, in many cases, the quiet suburban communities are hindered by limited access with only a single street providing access from a main road. The canyons, which make for very peaceful back yards, also provide dozens of years of thick, untended growth, steep hills and limited access for firefighters.
Sunday’s fire, which began along the side of Interstate 15, between Friars Road and Aero Drive, spread rapidly over the roadside berm and began a two-tiered advance. A small spread of flames moved slowly southward and up a hill toward apartment complexes, but the main head of the fire, spurred on by a light breeze, created a huge header, and spread rapidly to the north, up very steep and unstable terrain toward military housing.
San Diego Fire-Rescue initiated a vegetation fire response, deploying engines, brush rigs, water tenders and one of its helicopters to launch a full scale attack on the flames. As freeway lanes were shut down, firefighters began the assault from below, while more apparatus and firefighters began to push back the flames from above, protecting the houses on the canyon rim.
As San Diego’s Copter 1 made numerous drops on the fire and replenished its 300-gallon tank from a nearby lake, approximately 50 San Diego firefighters and federal firefighters who arrived from MCAS Miramar and Naval Base San Diego began to extinguish the flames, dealing with difficult, unstable terrain, chain link fences, overhead high voltage power lines and a bee swarm.
In a well-orchestrated action, the fire was contained within an hour. According to Maurice Luque, spokesperson for San Diego Fire-Rescue, firefighters kept the fire to less than 10 acres in size. There were no injuries to firefighters or damage to structures.
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