WESPEN Online Order Form print this page
US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

SAN DIEGO NWRC:  To Sum Up Success - Jamacha Fire at the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge

Region 8, September 18, 2010
USFWS Fire Engine Crew 58 and CAL FIRE firefighters implement a progressive hoselay to protect the community of Spring Valley, California.  (USFWS)
USFWS Fire Engine Crew 58 and CAL FIRE firefighters implement a progressive hoselay to protect the community of Spring Valley, California.  (USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a

By Miriam Morrill, Sacramento NWR

Successful fire management is being attained through equal parts hazardous fuels reduction, interagency fire response, community fire preparedness, and threatened and endangered species protection. 


The Jamacha Fire started just after noon on Saturday September 18, 2010. The fire burned approximately 27 acres of important coastal sage scrub habitat on the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge neighboring the community of Spring Valley, approximately 35 miles east of San Diego, California. 


Interagency fire response was immediate and aggressive with fire engines, aircraft, and hand crews supporting the effort.  The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service fire crew (Engine 58) was on site protecting a home with wood shingle roofing, which had caught fire from wind-borne embers.  The home was saved by the firefighters but the other 928 homes in the area did not catch fire due to the successful fuel break and less flammable building materials.


The community was under evacuation and the fire was managed under a unified command between CAL FIRE, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the San Miguel Fire District.  Within three hours, the wildfire was contained and the command group declared the fire “controlled” by the following afternoon when the area had been scouted and mopped-up. 


Community wildfire protection requires collaboration between homeowners, land managers, and fire agencies to address all angles of fire management.  In this case, most of the homeowners had addressed structural ignitability issues, the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge maintained a fuel break around the community and interagency fire staff performed under effective unified command. 


The 14-year-old fuel break maintained by the Refuge is six acres in size and 1.2 miles long. The intent of the fuel break is to reduce flammable vegetation in a zone that will slow the spread of the wildfire into the community or outlying natural areas.  The fuel break requires annually maintenance by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local partners.  There are eight more fuel breaks maintained by the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge established to protect adjacent communities at risk to wildfire.


Post fire management is equally important to fuels management and fire suppression activities.  Post fire management may help to reduce soil erosion and runoff into the community and will improve habitat for the threatened and endangered species that occur in the area.  There is a high risk of the burned area being overtaken by invasive grass species and significantly degrading the native coastal scrub habitat used by these species. 


A portion of the fire area falls within designated critical habitat for the threatened coastal California gnatcatcher and Otay tarplant.  While no populations of tarplant were affected, gnatcatchers likely occupied the area that burned.  The fire area also included habitat for the endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly. 


Stabilizing and rehabilitating the burn area is a crucial management task for protecting these threatened and endangered species as well as enhancing habitat values for numerous migratory birds, butterflies and other wildlife living in the area.


A special thanks to the refuge and fire management staff involved in the Jamacha Fire including John Truett, Zone Fire Management Officer (FMO), Larry Wade, Assistant FMO, Gordon Tamplin, Engine Captain, Rex, Hambly, Engineer, Cory Adams, and Blain Inglis, firefighters, Fred Workman, Law Enforcement Officer, James Roberts, Fire Ecologist, Pek Pum, GIS Specialist, and Jill Terp Refuge Manager.


For more information contact Jill Terp, Refuge Manager at 619-468-9245 (ext. 226).


See more photos of this story on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfws_pacificsw/sets/72157625122373320/ 

Contact Info: Miriam Morrill, 530-934-2801, Miriam_Morrill@fws.gov