California: Report released on Bernardo Fire

Bernardo Fire
Bernardo Fire. Screen grab from live video from NBC7 at about 4 p.m. PDT, May 13, 2014.

The Bernardo Fire that started May 13, 2014 was one of the first in a series of 12 large wildfires that occurred in San Diego County during a 10-day period in mid-May. No homes were destroyed, in spite of the fact that it burned through and adjacent to dense housing developments. This was a testament to the community planning and preparedness that is evident in many areas in California.

A 72-page report has been released on the 1,548-acre fire which identified lessons learned and recommendations for change. Examples include:

  • Outfit five Type 1 engines for immediate deployment during high risk wildland fire days. The engines would have all radios, pagers, MDC, EMS equipment (short narcotics) on board. Storage could possibly be within the Repair Facility.
  • Purchase and make available additional radios and batteries to meet the needs of large-scale incidents.
  • Direct Division/Group Supervisors to identify supply Drop Points and Staging Areas within their geographic divisions and/or functional groups.
  • Increase the number of City fire/rescue medium-lift helicopters to three (3) to insure SDFD’s ability to provide aerial fire suppression and rescue.
  • Request funding to hire additional brush management inspectors. A total of 22 positions are required to conduct annual inspections of the 42,505 private parcels in the wildland/urban interface within the City of San Diego. The Department currently has 6 positions dedicated to these inspections.
  • Train additional Department personnel to fill all IMT, DOC, and EOC positions to a minimum three-deep roster. Consideration should be given to using non-uniformed staff for incident support positions to free uniformed staff for key skills or fire line assignments.
  • Ensure that only one ICP is being utilized. One of the benefits may be that angled drafting tables, large-scale maps, and overlays would be made available by one of the other agencies in UC. Purchase and make available the drafting tables, large scale maps, printers and plotters and install in the CIMU vehicles.
  • Consider including redlines and foam pro systems in future fire engine specifications.
  • Consider assigning water tenders to each strike team and task force.
  • Issue each individual SDPD officer their own vegetation fire PPE so that they are equipped with the necessary safety equipment upon arrival at a vegetation fire.
  • Adoption of Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS) as a geospatial communications and collaborations tool should be discussed at a regional level.
  • Provide display processing equipment at the ICP to include hardware and tools necessary to provide a large format, bright, clear picture for collaboration should be determined and purchased. Provide command vehicles both paper backup large format topographical or satellite maps and a digital map display solution. Ideally, a “Google Earth-like” solution on a large format touch screen monitor should be run. NICS provides the basis for this type of map display collaboration and markup. Properly paired with the correct hardware either in command vehicles or support vehicles will allow incident managers better awareness.
  • Consider extending capability to track additional support vehicles (and staff) utilizing existing GPS technology tracking hardware/services.

California: Cocos fire in San Marcos

(UPDATED at 12:13 p.m. PDT, May 16, 2014)

CAL FIRE reports that that as of early Friday morning the Cocos Fire in San Marcos has burned 3,018 acres and is 10 percent contained. See the link in the previous update for a link to a satellite map of the fire.

The weather in southern California is expected to be 10 to 20 degrees cooler than it has been, which should give firefighters a chance to make some headway on the fires.

Evacuation notices have been lifted for thousands of residents in the San Marcos area.

Since the Cocos Fire started on Wednesday, 76,000 alerts have been sent to residents, via texts, emails and phone calls. The total does not translate to 76,000 people being evacuated because many residents receive the alerts by all three forms of communication.


(UPDATED at 8:54 a.m. PDT, May 16, 2014)

A new satellite map is available for the Cocos Fire. It showed little additional spread of the fire overnight.


(UPDATED at 7:18 p.m. PDT, May 15, 2014)

map Cocos Fire
Map showing the Cocos Fire. The dark red squares represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:27 p.m. PDT, May 15, 2014. The location of the icons can be as much as a mile in error.

The Cocos Fire, formerly known as the Washingtonia Fire, has been very active today, challenging firefighters who are trying to protect structures in remote areas surrounded by southern California chaparral. CAL Fire reports the fire has burned 1,200 acres and is 5 percent contained.

From the LA Times at 6:54 p.m. PDT, May 15:

Authorities in San Diego County issued hundreds of new mandatory evacuation orders Thursday afternoon as a wildfire in the San Marcos area grew to 1,200 acres and was spreading east toward Escondido.

Escondido residents in neighborhoods north and west of West Valley Parkway between Via Rancho Parkway and Highway 78 were ordered to leave their homes as two flanks of the Cocos wildfire raged along parched hillsides overlooking the city, officials said.

Home burning in the Cocos Fire, screen capture from NBC7 at 154 pm PDT, May 15, 2014
Home burning in the Cocos Fire, screen capture from NBC7 at 1:54 p.m. PDT, May 15, 2014.

Nearby weather stations measured the temperature at close to 100 degrees early in the afternoon.

Various reports from County and fire officials today say that 12 or 22 military helicopters are available if needed. Some of them have been dropping on the Cocos Fire today.


(Originally published at 6:05 a.m. PDT, May 15, 2014)

Cocos, Poinsettia, Bernardo Fires 320 am PDT, May 15, 2014
Map of the Cocos, Poinsettia, and Bernardo Fires. The yellow and red icons represent heat detected by a satellite. The darkest red icons show heat that was detected at 3:20 a.m. PDT, May 15, 2014.

The fire in San Marcos, California that was first called Washingtonia and later changed to Cocos, is the only fire in San Diego County that was still showing large amounts of heat when the satellite passed over at 3:20 a.m. PDT Thursday. That does not mean the other fires are out, it could mean firefighters have at least temporarily slowed the spread to the point where they are not creating enough heat to be detected by the satellite hundreds of miles overhead.

The map of the fire above shows the location of the Poinsettia, Cocos, and Bernardo Fires. The Cocos fire, according to CAL FIRE at 3:41 a.m. Thursday, has burned about 700 acres and three homes. The campus of Cal State San Marcos was evacuated Wednesday, and  the City of San Marcos reported that all neighborhoods south of San Marcos Blvd, including Lake San Marcos, also evacuated Wednesday afternoon. By 10 p.m. 600 more evacuation notices were issued for the Elfin Forest, Indian Road, Crestwind Road, Wilgen Drive and De Loma Drive areas, according to county officials. Channel 8 said a total of about 21,000 residents have been evacuated. CAL FIRE reported that three homes have burned. San Diego County announced more evacuations at 4:21 a.m. on Thursday:

San Diego County is maintaining a map showing the areas that are under evacuation orders.

We have a summary of eight fires that were burning Wednesday in San Diego County.

Numerous wildfires in San Diego County

(Originally published at 8:50 p.m. PDT, May 14, 2014; Updated at 7:08 p.m. PDT, May 15, 2014)

On Wednesday wildland firefighters were extremely busy in southern California’s San Diego County. We are aware of eight fires that were active Wednesday.

Tomahawk Fire
Tomahawk Fire, from Red Mountain at 12:24 p.m. PDT, May 14, 2014.

After being desiccated off and on for weeks by hot, dry, windy weather, the vegetation was ready to burn. East and northeast Santa Ana winds on Tuesday and Wednesday pushed the fires like freight trains across the hills and through communities. By mid-afternoon on Wednesday the winds decreased, and in some areas were replaced by a slightly cooler breeze off the ocean. This caused the spread of the fires to slow, and gave firefighters a chance, aided by an aerial armada, to move in closer and work the fires.

Fire near San Marcos, screen shot from Fox 5 at 545 pm May 14, 2014
Washingtonia Fire near San Marcos, screen shot from Fox 5 at 5:45 p.m. May 14, 2014.

Considering the number of fires, the dense population, and how stretched thin the fire suppression forces were due to the scope of the emergencies, a surprisingly few number of homes burned.
Continue reading “Numerous wildfires in San Diego County”

California: Bernardo Fire near Rancho Santa Fe

Map Bernardo Fire, north of San Diego, 2:52 pm PDT May 13, 2014
Map of heat detected on the Bernardo Fire, north of San Diego near Rancho Santa Fe, at 2:52 p.m. PDT May 13, 2014. The icons can be as much as a mile in error.

(UPDATE at 8:23 a.m. PDT, May 14, 2014)

All evacuations have been lifted for the Bernardo Fire north of San Diego at Rancho Santa Fe. The satellites that passed over the fire early Wednesday morning did not detect any large sources of heat or any additional fire spread.

San Diego Fire-Rescue reports Wednesday morning that 1,548 acres have burned and the fire is 25 percent contained. As of Tuesday night there were no reports of any homes burning, in spite of the fact that the fire burned through and adjacent to dense housing developments.

The weather on Wednesday will be a challenge for firefighters, who should expect 94 degrees, a relative humidity in the single digits, and by 11 a.m. 26 mph winds gusting up to 43 mph. By nightfall the winds will decrease to 10 mph or less and the humidity will rise to 39 percent by 1 a.m. Thursday.

The video report below was aired at 11 p.m. Tuesday night.

San Diego, California News Station – KFMB Channel 8 –

Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said about 22,000 phone numbers that had registered with AlertSanDiego were sent evacuation alerts in the first hours after the fire started on Tuesday. It was first reported near Del Norte High School’s playing fields, on Nighthawk Lane and Camino San Bernardino in the city of San Diego, about 10:40 a.m.

The video below is a time-lapse of the fire as photographed from a camera system on Mt. Woodson.

Continue reading “California: Bernardo Fire near Rancho Santa Fe”