Saturday, August 21, 2010

El Monte Fire Spreads Towards Cleveland National Forest

El Monte Valley: On Saturday, August 21st, 2010 at 12:58 p.m., the Lakeside Fire District received multiple calls reporting a vegetation fire in the 16400 block of El Monte Rd. Two brush engines, three structural engines, an ALS ambulance, and a battalion chief were dispatched to the incident. In addition, both CalFire and USFS sent full wildland responses including air assets from Ramona and Gillispie Field.

The fire scene from one of the first due engine companies.
First arriving units discovered a well establish fire on the north side of El Monte Rd at the base of El Cajon Mountain. The fire was making hard runs up the hillside with spot fires out in front of the fire. In addition, the fire was threatening structures along El Monte Rd, and at the base of the El Capitan Reservoir.

Crews were deployed to protect the threatened structures while crews on the brush engines took action on the fire. Soon after these operations began, the Incident Commander (Tockstein) was advised of eight people trapped by the fire in an area between El Cajon Mountain and El Capitan Reservoir. A request was made to have the SDSO Copter fly into the area and evacuate the residents. Copter 10 removed 8 occupants and some domestic animals from the area.

The communications center then received a cell phone call from climbers on the cliff face stating that the fire had surrounded them and their egress had been cut off. The SDSO copter flew into the area and soon located two climbers in extreme terrain. Both hikers were hoisted into the helicopter and removed from the area. In total, the SDSO copters removed 10 people from the fire area.
Lakeside firefighters evaluate the approaching "head" of the fire.
The fire continued to advance in a northwesterly direction into rugged terrain. The fire eventually burned into an area at the base of El Capitan Reservoir which has multiple sheds and storage areas. Crews protected the majority of the structures but the fire did advance into an area containing PVC and ABS pipes. Brush 18 (San Miguel Fire) was requested to utilize a specialized foam system to suppress the plastics fire.

The fire hits the base of the El Capitan Dam. Lakeside crews hurry into defensive positions to protect the structures.
By evening, the forward progress of the fire had been stopped by ground crews and aerial resources. The "uneasy" control line held into the evening, allowing crews time to work the fire overnight. At last report, the fire had consumed just over 1000 acres. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries.

Lakeside and San Miguel firefighters work to extinguish a fire burning in PVC and ABS pipes.
During the incident, boaters were evacuated to the marina to allow aircraft to use the lake as a water source. El Monte County Park is currently being used as the base camp for the duration of the fire. El Monte Road was closed during the incident and continues to be subject to closure.

Fire map as of Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Submitted: Captain Mark Grow, Lakeside Fire District.


  1. Thank you, firefighters- ground and pilots. We are grateful for what you do.

  2. Awesome job as usual! We are thankful for you

  3. Living on Wildcat Canyon, we were on high alert and had activated our "fire phone tree." As always we thank you all for what you do. You are our heroes!

  4. Great job by the firefighters, Sheriff, helicopter and air tanker crews. Tough terrain, hot, dangerous conditions, tricky flying.

    Shame on the property owner and fire prevention for not clearing the vegetation around that pipe. Not doing your job, and I hope someone took you to task for that.