Illegal immigrants set signal fire, burn 800+ acres

Cowboy fire
The Cowboy fire east of San Diego. Photo: Nick Schuler, Cal Fire Battalion Chief

UPDATE: Sept. 4 @ 9:10 a.m. MT

This morning’s update shows that the fire has burned 874 acres and is 65% contained. The fire was not active last night and firefighters expect full containment on Sunday.

Authorities said two illegal immigrants who crossed the US/Mexico border east of San Diego became lost and set a signal fire on Thursday. They used a cell phone to call Mexico’s emergency dispatch system and told them that they had been lost for two days, were dehydrated and they were going to set a signal fire so rescuers could find them. The remains of a campfire were found, but there was no sign of the immigrants.

The resulting fire, named the Cowboy fire, as of 5:30 p.m. today had burned 822 acres of brush between Campo and Potrero and was 42% contained.

San Diego Gas and Electric’s new Sikorsky S-64F Aircrane helitanker, purchased primarily to install electrical transmission towers on a new power line they are building, was used on the fire. It is known as helitanker 729 when fighting fire, or “Sunbird” when working on the powerline.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.