Firefighting

Chariot Fire Jumps California Highway

A brush fire that has scorched 3,000 acres southeast of Julian (CA) jumped the Sunrise Highway Monday afternoon as firefighters made an aggressive stand to keep the flames from spreading, reports U-T San Diego.

The entire highway through the Mount Laguna Recreational Area was shut down from Interstate 8 to the south and state Route 79 to the north, and everyone in the area had been told to get out, said Cal Fire Capt. Mike Mohler.

The Chariot fire moved rapidly Monday, expanding from the desert floor up the dry mountain ridges and continuing to move south, Mohler said.

“We are working hard to supress it,” Mohler said.

Just before 12:30 p.m., at least four loud explosions were heard and trees were burning about two miles north of the Laguna General Store as embers set fire to the brush west of the highway.

Helicopters and an air tanker were making numerous water and fire retardant drops, and firefighters were lining the roadway.

The fast-moving fire forced Cal Fire officials earlier Monday to increase their evacuation orders to include 120 structures and several campgrounds.

The fire was reported as 20 percent contained at 7 a.m., but by 1 p.m Cal Fire had downgraded that to 15 percent.

Before noon, the fire had made a major run up to Monument Peak where an air tanker was dropping fire retardant to keep flames from Doppler radar and other weather equipment, Mohler said.

The fire also had burned through the northern part of Storm Canyon near the Pioneer Mail Trail head, where its forward spread was stopped at Sunrise Highway, Mohler said.

“We had a contingency plan in place,” he said. “We had strike teams up and down the highway.”

The evacuation area along the highway includes the El Prado, Horse Heaven and Laguna campgrounds, the Al Bahr Shrine Camp, the Foster Lodge, and cabins on Mount Laguna, Mohler said.

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