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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

SAN DIEGO NWR:  Refuge Fire Crews First Responders  to Otay Lakes Road Fire

Region 8, June 20, 2012
Captain Gordon Tamplin scouting ahead of the FWS Fire crew to lay hose.
Captain Gordon Tamplin scouting ahead of the FWS Fire crew to lay hose. - Photo Credit: n/a
Corey Adams (left), Jarad Palmer ahead installing the hoselay on the left flank of the fire.
Corey Adams (left), Jarad Palmer ahead installing the hoselay on the left flank of the fire. - Photo Credit: n/a

By Lisa Cox
While a scheduled preparedness review for the San Diego Fire crew was underway June 13, 2012, firefighters from the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge complex demonstrated their preparedness by fighting an unscheduled,  real- life fire that began adjacent  to the refuge.

Regional  review cadre Glenn Gibson and Jessica Wade from Pacific Southwest Regional Fire Management Program and Lee Jensen from Klamath NWR visited the refuge's fire station in Jamul, East County San Diego, to conduct a Preparedness Review , examining the program’s readiness for the fire season.  Before the review began (around 1:45 p.m.) an emergency call came in over their radios regarding a trailer on fire at the “Thousand Trails” Pio Pico Campground on Otay Lakes Road. FWS firefighters confirmed the smoke column was just over the ridge from their San Diego NWR office and knowing the tinder-dry vegetation, weather conditions, and proximity to the refuge, they immediately responded to the fire.  

Engine 58 (Gordon Tamplin, Rex Hambly, Phillip Hoover, Corey Adams, and Jarad Palmer) were first on scene initial attack resource with Engine 56 (Jim Mitchell, Matthew Pecos, Cruz Armendariz, Zack Damon, Cody Kalopp) close behind. What began as a reported structure fire was in fact a vegetation fire which quickly spread up a dry wash and climbed grass covered hills, located on both privately owned land and a game reserve managed by Calfornia Department of Fish and Game, FWS Fire Captain Gordon Tamplin became the Incident Commander, while Engine 58 took the left flank and 56 on the right. With the help of the US Forest Service and Cal Fire on-scene, the fire was fully contained within 10 hours.

Cal Fire engines soon arrived and assumed command. Cal Fire and the San Diego County Fire Authority deployed about 100 firefighters, 17 engines, two hand crews, and one bulldozer on the ground. Four air tankers and four helicopters dropped water utilizing the Otay Lakes Reservoir which assisted the ground crew in containing the fire. The fire ultimately burned about 184 acres, mostly on the State-managed Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve. No refuge lands were burned.  

The FWS Fire staff was satisfied in how they responded to the emergency, and proud to be first on-scene to protect their partner’s resources surrounding the refuge. Gibson and Wade commented later that evening that they were glad to have seen the fire crews in respond so professionally and quickly to an active fire and determined that both crews are well-prepared for the upcoming fire season.

For more information on the Regional Fire Program for the Southern California Management Zone, visit:
http://www.fws.gov/cno/fire/index.cfm

Contact Info: Lisa Cox, 619.476.9150 ext. 106, lisa_cox@fws.gov