Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

'Firefighters were amazing' during Sandia Creek Fire

Julie Reeder


The Sandia fire last Sunday, Sept. 4, burned 30 acres. It was first reported at 1:34 p.m. in the 39000 block of Sandia Creek Road north of De Luz Road. This scenario is what our local fire crews have been training for and keep watch for, especially in a Purple Flag condition. They also, after learning from the Rice fire and other fires, know to crush it right away with help from other agencies, air tankers, helicopters, etc. Whatever it takes to stop the spread, especially in our dry brush and trees, hills and valleys.

The Sandia fire was on and around the popular landmark and hiking spot Rock Mountain. “The North County Fire Protection District is in unified command with Cal Fire San Diego,” said NCFPD PIO John Choi in an interview by phone. “We had full aircraft responding right away,” he added. The cause of the fire was unknown, but he said it was burning with a moderate rate of spread. He said early on that there were no structures threatened, but they did call for evacuation and had road closures an hour later.

“Four aircraft have dropped retardant at the head of the fire and crews are making progress on the flanks to the fire,” Choi said, “The helicopters are going to get water from any water source close by that's clean.”

At about 3:45 p.m., the San Diego County Sheriff's Department issued an evacuation order for homes near Sandia Creek Drive and West Sandia Creek Terrace. People in the affected areas were directed to head north to Riverside County and they were directed to call 9-1-1 if they needed help evacuating.

Kerri McDaniels, who lives on Rock Mountain Drive said, "They [fire crews] got here quickly, and once they got here, they were just ‘on it,’ assessing with a spotter plane and guys on our driveway with a small crew, and a large crew at the base of Rock Mountain on Sandia Creek and East Sandia Creek Terrace, so they were covering every point they could to assess it and get on it quickly.

“I couldn't believe how many hand crews there were. The firefighters were amazing. The fire was running uphill so fast before the firefighters got here. It was starting to head this way and then the wind shifted a bit and started blowing the fire west. It was so scary. But they got on it and got air support right away and the helicopters flew in a continuous loop for a few hours. several helicopters and even one big drop of retardent by a big airliner-sized airplane.”

They were able to hold the line at 30 acres and there was 100% containment by Monday morning, Sept. 5. One firefighter was experiencing heat related symptoms, so he was hoisted out of the area and transported to a local hospital where he was in stable condition.

Shirley Viramontes shared on Facebook, “This month, I’ve been in Fallbrook for 25 years. I’ve seen, heard of, and experienced lots of fires. Our fire personnel have always done an outstanding job along with other agencies. What I saw today was literally amazing with the ground and air support. They have bumped up their level of attack to our fires in such professionalism, camaraderie, and expertise. Their equipment on land and air proved to be handled by only the best. I want to thank all who are working to fight the fires…”


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