Brush Fire 'Explodes' To 10,258 Acres In Japatul Valley, 11 Buildings Burned, Emergency Declared
Speaker 1: 00:00 Temperatures. Well, over a hundred degrees broke records all over San Diego County. This weekend as firefighters battled the Valley fire that has burned over 10,000 acres and continues to burn East of Hummel. This morning, governor Gavin Newsome has declared a state of emergency for five California counties where wildfires are burning, including San Diego and San Bernardino counties in Southern California. Plus three Northern California counties. Wildfire blazers have now burned about 2 million acres in our state so far. And this is officially the worst fire season in California history already with peak fire seasons. Still ahead here to bring us the latest on the Valley fire currently burning in San Diego is East County is Cal fire, captain Kendall. BORTACer Kendall. Glad to have you on the program. Speaker 2: 00:44 Hello, Allison pleasure to be with you Speaker 1: 00:46 The status of the Valley fire right now, Speaker 2: 00:49 We know that, uh, right now the fire is, uh, over 10,000 acres. Uh, our containment number is still at 1%. We don't like that number. We want to see that number come up, certainly because that's the number that really tells us that we're starting to get a handle on this and make progress. So a 1% is not very much as the crews remain out there 24 hours a day. Uh, they are, they are making progress and, uh, over time we will start to see that that containment number come up. Speaker 1: 01:16 And what direction is the fire burning right now? Where is it headed? Speaker 2: 01:19 Well, we've been seeing the fire burning in a westerly direction. Now we know that we have Santa Ana winds coming in perhaps tonight or tomorrow. So, uh, as we know all too well, living in San Diego, that's always a game changer for us when the winds come in. Speaker 1: 01:31 Right. Um, we did have a little respite, I think overnight. Was that accurate? Speaker 2: 01:36 Yeah, I guess if there's a positive thing to say, it's a, that the fire only grew by about 400 acres overnight, but that's a, that's typical. We expect that we know that, uh, during those evening hours, when the temperature goes down and the humidity rises, uh, we know that we're, we're, we're not going to see very large fire growth at night unless there's winds involved in it. Uh, which was exactly the case last night. But then as we know, what's, the sun comes up, the ground heats up, uh, the humidity drops and we start seeing some wind that's when the, uh, that's when the fire really takes off. Speaker 1: 02:12 You mentioned it sort of 1% percent containment currently. What does that mean? Exactly? Speaker 2: 02:17 Well, containment is, uh, what containment is it essentially? It means that we have a line around the fire. We can get containment, uh, one of a few different ways we can get containment with bulldozers. Uh, we can get containment with hand crews. Uh, it means essentially that the fire surrounded on all sides and there's a with a boundary, but, uh, it's still burning. And even though we may have, uh, I've seen fires here in San Diego that had been 75% contained and the fire jumps over the fire line, and now we have a whole new fire take off. So the containment number, uh, we want that number to a hundred percent and that's, that's what the goal is to get a line surrounding the complete fire. Speaker 1: 03:03 Were you expecting the fire to go today and then tomorrow as well, where things might change? Speaker 2: 03:08 Well, the fires, as I said, it's continuing to move, um, perhaps into the, the, uh, the Hauser Canyon area. Uh, we did just recently put out some evacuation, uh, orders. And so, uh, we'd been, uh, we put them out via not only the Sheriff's department, but the County of San Diego, uh, Cal fire, the forest service, and essentially is telling people that they, uh, they need to get out of that area. And those areas that we just recently issued, those evacuation orders for were, uh, the corral Canyon off-road area and Bobcat Meadows, and also Los Pinos. So those are the areas of concern right now. Uh, we're sending early warning to those folks so that we can get them out early in the event, the fire does go down into those areas. Speaker 1: 03:51 What are the areas where people have already been evacuate, Speaker 2: 03:54 Primarily the carve acre area off of a half, a tool road? Uh, that's where the, uh, the majority of, of, uh, the fire has been as is on, as you said, as you drive up the eight, you can see it off to the, off to the right there. Um, but the, uh, or I guess if you're going South on the eight or, uh, East on the eight, you'll see it off to the side, but the, uh, um, the car Baker area has been primarily it. And then there have been a lot of roads that have been evacuated as well. I don't have that list in front of me. Speaker 1: 04:24 Sound about, about 10 more than 10 properties have gone so far, right? Speaker 2: 04:28 Yes. We have had, uh, we have had some residences and some, uh, outbuildings sheds, uh, things like that that had been destroyed. And, uh, so that's, uh, you know, we certainly don't like hearing about that, but there have been structures destroyed in this fire. Speaker 1: 04:47 I understand that the military now has been called into help. What sort of resources do you have and, and how will lapse? Speaker 2: 04:54 Yeah, that's a, it's just us tremendously. It's another tool in our arsenal. Uh, you know, thanks to the proactive efforts of Cal fire. The, uh, we're exercising our agreement today that we have with the Navy third fleet and the first Marine expeditionary force. And that's what allows us to utilize military aircraft on the fire. So we're going to have a number of those folks here this afternoon that are going to be assisting us, uh, fighting the fire right alongside with us. Speaker 1: 05:21 What kind of airpower do you have? Speaker 2: 05:23 Well, we have, uh, both fixed wing aircraft, which are air tankers and also rotary wing aircraft, which are the helicopters. Speaker 1: 05:32 So, no, what is California's strategy at this point? You know, bearing in mind that there could be a Santa Ana wind tomorrow, and it's 1% contained. I mean, do you have a, is there something you're hoping to see will happen today? Speaker 2: 05:44 Well, we're certainly hoping that mother nature would cooperate with this a little bit and, uh, keep the Santa Ana's is outta here, drops. The temperature, brings some humidity up and, uh, let our folks get a handle on this, but we know that that's probably not going to happen. So we have to have a plan in place that, uh, in the event that, uh, we have to work within those parameters. We've got, uh, you know, folks in place equipment in place, resources in place. And we're doing that obviously from the air and the ground, our, uh, aerial assets. We've got a lot of, uh, aircraft assigned to the incident that's working. And then all of our ground resources, our bulldozers, our hand crews, uh, our, our engine companies, the boots on the ground, the firefighters several hundred firefighters assigned to this incident. So, uh, we're tackling it from every angle we can. Speaker 2: 06:30 And, uh, certainly the priority is, uh, early activation getting into letting the folks know that are in the fires path that, uh, they need to get out. And, uh, as you know, when we talk about an evacuation order, we're telling you, it is not safe for you to be in your home. You need to get out right now, it's dangerous. And we don't want you to stay behind, uh, you know, staying behind and trying to protect your property. It puts you in a very, very dangerous situation and it poses a threat that ultimately you could get an, a, a, a situation where you need to be rescued. And now we got to pull firefighters off the lines to come and make a rescue. So by all means, if you're issued that order, if you feel the threat, if you feel in danger, pack up your belongings, grabbed your family, all those valuables and get out. Speaker 1: 07:12 So right now it's burning very rural areas, but it's what 10, 20 miles from the rural urban interface, how close is it to more populated areas, especially if it turned around and burned away? Speaker 2: 07:24 Yeah, the majority of areas we've been seeing at burnin, uh, are exactly, as you say, rural areas, homes that are spread, uh, you know, mixed, uh, mixed with the brush, uh, throughout the Hills there. And so, uh, you know, the, the strategy is to get crews in their engines in there, uh, and, and do their very best to defend those homes, defend those structures, get the people out, you know, that, that's what makes it the challenge. It's not a heavily populated residential community where you've got several homes, right on top of each other. This is homes that are up long dirt roads and, uh, in rare, very rural setting. So, you know, the sheriff gets in there early, they make those notices, and then we do our best to get engines in there. But, uh, as folks know, I mean, we've only got so much, so many engines. We don't have the ability to put a fire engine in every single house. Speaker 1: 08:11 Now's the time to be thinking about preparedness and Cal fire has a website, www.readyforwildfire.org. Kendall. Thanks so much for bringing us this update. That is Cal fire, captain Kendall. BORTACer. Now we're turning to KPBS reporter Joe Hong, who is at the Valley fire evacuation center. Welcome Joe. Thank you. So where exactly are you? Where's the center? Speaker 2: 08:36 So I am at the Joan McQueen middle school in Alpine. It's a little, uh, Southwest of where the main fire is spreading right now. Um, there are currently just red cross volunteers here, and a couple of families that have, uh, found refuge here. Speaker 1: 08:53 So we, that, that people are being given hotel vouchers to lessen the chance of the spread of covert. Is it clear how many have received vouchers as opposed to coming to your, your larger center, where they would have been crowded together? Speaker 3: 09:08 Yeah, that's uh, that's great. So, um, that's an important distinction to make right now considering, uh, the pandemic is still raging in this region. Um, the red cross has emphasized that folks aren't really sheltering here. They're being re evacuated to local hotels and motels that have sort of offered, uh, rooms for evacuees. Um, I spoke with a volunteer named Andrea Fuller, who she's a volunteer public information officer for the red cross. And she gave me a sense of how many families they've been able to serve Speaker 4: 09:40 Yesterday alone here at this shelter, we supported a 31 families. That's 96 people with, um, sheltering needs, overnight hotel rooms. And we're continuing to have people trickle in as the word gets out that we are here for you where the red cross pandemic or not. We are here for you to provide you relief, comfort, and any support services that we can. Speaker 1: 10:02 So that's almost a hundred people that have been evacuated maybe more by now. Have you had a chance to talk to any of them? Speaker 3: 10:09 Yeah, I spoke with Danielle Belovo. She, uh, she was actually able to spend the night here. Um, she has some pets and she wasn't able to find a hotel that would accommodate them, but, uh, she was very up close to the fire when she was evacuated. Um, here's a clip from her, Speaker 4: 10:27 You know, we kind of get complacent because our firefighters do such an awesome job. Um, you know, we think, Oh, they'll knock this down. Oh yeah. I mean it, the fire wasn't that far from me obviously, and I went, Oh yeah, okay. I'll hook up the worst trailer. It'll be fine. And then all of a sudden, you just see flames coming towards you and going, okay, this is huge. This is out of control. This is explosive. And that's the only way I can think of is it Speaker 3: 10:52 She's here. Like I said, with her pet, she has a cat and two big Wolf dogs right now. And she's grateful for everything that the red cross has provided them, um, for her and her, uh, her partner. But, uh, she said she could really use a shower right about now. Speaker 1: 11:09 Hmm. I understand. There are also people staying in their cars and RVs, have you seen any of that? Speaker 3: 11:14 I know Danielle Belovo told me that up until last night, she had to stay in her car. Um, but the, uh, the school was able to accommodate her last night just because it got so hot. Um, right now I don't see any RVs or folks, uh, staying out in their cars. Um, it, the parking lot looks fairly empty right now. Speaker 1: 11:37 So what kind of precautions are they taking at the shelter to prevent any kind of COVID-19 problems? Speaker 3: 11:42 And the red cross volunteers are doing temperature checks for everyone who enters. Um, I had to get my temperature charts, uh, to walk in, to talk to people here today. Um, there are also, you know, there are tables set up with, uh, plastic dividers. So, uh, they're really enforcing that social distancing and they're just disinfecting all the tables and chairs as well. Speaker 1: 12:04 So what kind of services are being provided at the center? Speaker 3: 12:07 Yeah, so, uh, evacuees are getting hot food. They're getting water. They have plenty of Gatorade, um, there, when they can, they're providing pet food, although the red cross, uh, urges folks to bring pet food for their pets when they can, Speaker 1: 12:24 Can you see any evidence of the fire from the evacuation center at all? Is there a bad air quality? What can you see? Speaker 3: 12:31 Yeah, I mean, I don't see a ton of smoke. I I'll say the air is generally pretty gray, but I don't see any like rising smoke or Ash or anything like that. Um, no sort of immediate threat of fire around here. It looks like Speaker 1: 12:50 The area where the virus is burning is very rural and of course, a lot of people out there have animals and some have large animals and livestock. Uh, what do you know about what kind of options are there for people who have animals that are at risk? Speaker 3: 13:05 Yeah, so, uh, it seems like the red cross and the vacuums themselves are kind of scrambling to get their larger, larger animals housed. Um, Daniel Beliveau, who you heard from earlier, uh, her, she has two horses and her vet was able to find a stable for them where they could keep their two horses. So, um, folks are really just doing what they can to find shelter for the large animals. Speaker 1: 13:30 There was a temporary evacuation point for large animals, uh, the County animal services. So shelter is at 58, 21 Sweetwater road in Benita. People who need help to evacuate animals from the Bush fire can call the San Diego humane society at (619) 299-7012 and then press one. So, Joe, thanks very much for your report. Speaker 3: 13:52 Thank you.