About five small fires broke out last week in Spring Valley, Mt. Helix and other East County communities, in incidents that were caused by natural forces and human neglect.
On Tuesday, Sept. 6, two fires broke out in Spring Valley. One fire broke out in the Miller Ranch area, and was suspected to be caused by a lightning strike, according to Leonard Villareal, public information officer for San Miguel Fire District. Investigators believe that lightning struck a utility pole, which began to smolder. As the pole dried out, it is believed that the fire broke out, burning about a quarter-acre of land. About 30 San Miguel and CAL FIRE firefighters responded.
Later in the day, a fire broke out at around 6:30 p.m. at Broadway and Polaris streets, threatening about 15 homes. A large area of dried grass on a steep slope allowed the fire to move quickly, however no homes were damaged. Crews from San Miguel, La Mesa and Lemon Grove provided mutual aid.
Investigators believe that the cause of this fire was a "discarded cigarette material," said Villareal. A security camera may have caught the act, and if possible San Miguel Fire will pursue cost recovery.
Two days later, on Thursday, Sept. 8, there were two small fires on Mt. Helix, which were quickly extinguished, and caused little to no damage. In Spring Valley on Grand Avenue near Dictionary Hill, a fire broke out in the 1700 block.
Villareal said the cause of "The Grand Fire" was not not yet determined, but that "spontaneous combustion" of a dried yard waste pile is suspected. Temperatures in Spring Valley on Thursday reached as much as 104 degrees.
The fire, which reacehd about 9 feet in height and started at a residential home, triggered a half-acre wildfire, which was extinguished by a San Diego Fire helicopter.
"It was a split level home that had the entire bottom level burned out," said Villareal, adding that it was considered a loss, as firefighters would not be able to fight the fire with no bottom level.
Villareal said because of the dry conditions, and the possibility of Santa Ana winds blowing through next week, residents should be especially cautious.
"People need to clear the space around their homes from brush and other debris," said Villareal. "Firefighters need to be able to access your home, if a fire happens to break out. Making your home defensible is crucial during the wildfire season."