Tag Archives: brush fire

BATTALION CHIEF DONNIE VILORIA REFLECTS ON FIGHTING WILDFIRES

County Fire Battalion Chief Donnie Viloria hasn’t been home much over the last month or so. At the end of August, he spent two weeks fighting the Dolan Fire near Big Sur, and then after a short vacation, he was sent back out to help fight the Glass Fire for 10 days in Sonoma, Napa, and Lake counties. Viloria is back home now, and talked with Managing Editor Tami Roleff about his experiences training to be a strike team leader…

Donnie Viloria

“It’s a great feeling when you get to go help your neighbors.”

A plane drops fire retardant at the Dolan Fire near Big Sur to help contain the blaze. Photo courtesy County Fire Battalion Chief Donnie Viloria

County Fire Battalion Chief Donnie Viloria said San Bernardino County has felt the impacts of numerous large disasters over many years, and through the mutual-aid system, has received help from fire departments from throughout California and beyond.

“We cannot do it ourselves; no jurisdiction can.”

County Fire Battalion Chief Donnie Viloria documents the devastation of the Dolan Fire near Big Sur in August-September. Photo courtesy Battalion Chief Donnie Viloria

Viloria’s strike team of five fire engines and their crews at the Glass Fire concentrated on defending structures—homes, wineries, and other commercial structures. But there’s more to fighting wildfires than pouring water on flames.

“There’s no doubt that firefighters want to aggressively defend a community, but then there’s that other part that we need to do—and have to do—and do just as well, which is the recovery phase.”

County Fire Battalion Chief Donnie Viloria spent 10 days with a strike team of five fire engines in early October at the Glass Fire in Napa, Sonoma, and Lake counties of northern California. Photo Coutesy Battalion Chief Donnie Viloria.

He said the mopping up phase—making sure the hot spots were out—can also be very satisfying.

“When they come back home—if in fact their home was saved, and many, many were—they can feel safe knowing that there aren’t hot spots and trees that are going to fall on their home, or other things aren’t going to catch fire.”

County Fire Battalion Chief Donnie Viloria documents the devastation of the Dolan Fire near Big Sur in August-September. Photo courtesy Battalion Chief Donnie Viloria

And he mentioned another benefit of defending structures during wildfires.

“The thank you signs and the well wishes from people, it’s overwhelming.”

A SUSPICIOUS FIRE IN YUCCA VALLEY MONDAY

Firefighters were called to a suspicious blaze in Yucca Valley Monday afternoon. Firefighters were called to a small vegetation fire in the alley behind a home in the 7400 block of Borrego Trail at 3:22 p.m. The 10-foot by 10-foot blaze was out by the time firefighters arrived. The cause is under investigation.

EL DORADO FIRE 59% CONTAINED THIS MORNING

Two regional fires are sending smoke into the Morongo Basin, depending on wind directions, but are not posing any danger to us.

Evacuation orders were lifted Saturday for the Snow Creek area and Sunday for the Windy Point neighborhoods that were threatened by the Snow Fire, at the base of Mount San Jacinto near Palm Springs. The Snow Fire has burned 6,013 acres and is 38% contained. The fire’s location in the wind tunnel area of the San Gorgonio pass has concerned firefighters, as winds gust up to 30 miles per hour through the pass. Air tankers will focus on the ridgelines to keep the fire from threatening Palm Springs. The Snow Fire started Thursday afternoon from a car fire.

The nearby El Dorado fire is at 22,576 acres and is 59% contained as of this morning. Critically dry fuels still exist, and spot fires continue to occur. A large rock and debris slide caused the closure of Highway 38 between mile marker 16 and 17; CalTrans will attempt to clear the slide today. The fire has met the highway on the slopes to the south of Angelus Oaks, and down the north aspect slopes to Highway 38. Containment lines remain at risk due to hot rolling material along the Hwy 38 corridor. The Oak Glen, Yucaipa, Banning, and Beaumont portions of the fire have moved into patrol status.

The El Dorado Fire started on September 5, in El Dorado Park located in the Yucaipa/Oak Glen area when an incendiary device was used for a gender reveal event.

NEARBY FIRES: EL DORADO 63% CONTAINED, SNOW FIRE UNCONTAINED

A new fire erupted nearby Thursday afternoon. The Snow Fire, in the Snow Creek neighborhood at the base of Mount San Jacinto just south of I-10, started at 2:38 p.m. from a car fire and quickly spread into vegetation. As of last night, it was 1,200 acres and 0 percent contained. A CalFire fire captain said the fire was intense and burning at a moderate to critical rate of speed. Evacuation orders have been issued for the entire Snow Creek area, with an evacuation center set up in Cabazon. Smoke from the Snow Fire is blowing into the Coachella Valley at this time.

The Snow Fire stared at 2:38 p.m. Thursday from a car fire on Highway 111 near Snow Creek. Photo courtesy @jessipants77

The U.S. Forest Service said a firefighter died yesterday while fighting the nearby El Dorado Fire. No other information is available.

Smoke from the El Dorado fire, at more than 19,000 acres and 63% contained, continues to come into the Morongo Basin depending on wind direction.

The Snow Fire is burning in the area of Snow Creek at the base of San Jacinto.

The El Dorado fire burned more actively yesterday along Hwy 38 in the vicinity of Angelus Oaks. Ground crews continue to directly attack the fire utilizing hose lines and strengthening fire containment lines to protect the community. Spotting occurred within the indirect fire line and did not cross Hwy 38. The fire progressed past Forsee Creek and continues to burn northeast towards San Bernardino Peak. There is NO evacuation directive for Big Bear residents as of this morning but stay informed.

The snow Fire was at more than 1200 acres by 8 p.m. Photo courtesy Mike Nelson

Over 17,400 firefighters remain on the frontlines of 26 major and three extended attack wildfires in California.

The Snow Fire quickly increased in size

LOCAL BATTALION CHIEF TALKS ABOUT THE EL DORADO FIRE

San Bernardino County Fire Battalion Chief Scott Tuttle was barely home from working the Apple Fire in August when he was sent out again to augment firefighters working on the El Dorado Fire. Managing editor Tami Roleff files this report from the fire captain, who talks about fighting the fire in the Angelus Oaks area…

San Bernardino County Fire Battalion Chief Scott Tuttle shows a scratch line his crew of firefighters made to protect a house in Angelus Oaks. Courtesy San Bernardino County Fire Department

“This morning we told our firefighters, if this was your house, prep it like it was your house.”

Fire Battalion Chief Scott Tuttle was with a strike team of firefighters that was charged with structure defense in Angelus Oaks. Crews are creating defensible spaces around houses.

San Bernardino County Fire Battalion Chief Scott Tuttle shows how a house has a good defensible space around it. Courtesy San Bernardino County Fire Department

“Defensible space is an area clear of vegetation that gives us a chance to go direct on the fire before it actually impacts the house. It gives us that buffer, that gives us a safety zone space to work in and keep the fire off the house.”

Tuttle explained why defensible space is so important when working with wildfires.

San Bernardino County Fire Battalion Chief Scott Tuttle talked about the work firefighters are doing in the El Dorado Fire in the Angelus Oaks area. Courtesy San Bernardino County Fire Department

“A house without defensible space is a threat to the houses around it, and it becomes a domino; once one house catches, it’s more likely to catch the houses around it.”

And finally, Tuttle repeated his admonition that residents should evacuate if necessary.

“When we have residents in area, and we’re trying to get equipment up here, it hampers our efforts. the sooner folks can get out and let us get to work, the better off we’ll all be.”