Story Summary

Southern California wildfires


  • The 2013 wildfire season began early.
  • Several destructive wildfires broke out in the first week of May.
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This story has 9 updates

SAN DIEGO — SeaWorld San Diego announced Tuesday that public safety workers and their families will receive free admission in June and July, in tribute to the first responders who fought the outbreak of wildfires around the region two weeks ago.

SeaWorld Killer Whales

Photo: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Free admission will be granted to a first responder and three immediate family members through July 31, according to the theme park.

“We want to show our appreciation for the tireless efforts of our firefighters and other emergency workers during the recent fires,” said park President John Reilly. “Our hope is that these courageous first responders and their families will come to SeaWorld, share time with one another and create memories that last a lifetime.”

Eligible agencies include all fire departments in the San Diego region, along with Cal Fire, the state Department of Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, state Parks Bureau and Bureau of Indian Affairs, area police departments, Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, U.S. Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, employees of emergency medical services and 911 dispatchers, according to SeaWorld.

Those who wish to take advantage of the offer need to register online, print a voucher and bring it, photo identification and documents that verify their employment to the park.

SeaWorld offered a similar deal after the firestorms of 2003 and 2007.

“This is our way of saying ‘thank you,”’ Reilly said.

Around a dozen wildfires broke out during hot, windy weather beginning May 13, scorching thousands of acres and burning dozens of North County homes. Many other structures were saved by the first responders, and no lives were lost.

SAN DIEGO – A fast-paced wildfire blacked hundreds of acres and forced a large animal shelter in Rancho Santa Fe to evacuated hundreds of animals Tuesday.


PHOTOS: Bernardo Fire

Helen Woodward Animal Center staff members and volunteers transported horses, dogs, cats, desert tortoises and other animals to SeaWorld, Del Mar Fairgrounds and other pet shelters around San Diego County.

The fire was just down the road and the facility was ordered to evacuate.

“That’s part of the reason we wanted to get the animals out, there’s also the air quality, we can go inside a building, but a lot of these animals are outdoors, we don’t want them breathing all the smoke and ash,” said Jessica Gercke, Helen Woodward Animal Center Public Relations Manager.

There were some animals, like a handful of horses, that would not be moved unless it was absolutely necessary due to recent surgeries and other procedures so they stayed behind with a few staff members from the HWAC. Fortunately the fire threat died down and were able to shelter in place.



IDYLLWILD, Calif. — The community of Idyllwild is once again open for business, after the U.S. Forest Service lifted evacuation orders for both residents and visitors Sunday night.


A fast-moving fire near Idyllwild has burned thousands of acres since Monday afternoon. (Cal-Fire / July 16, 2013)

Over two-thirds of the Mountain Fire, which threatened the community last week, has been contained.

Highway 243 is completely open, evacuations orders have been lifted and firefighting crews have been scaled back, according to a statement from the Forest Service.

Officials emphasized that the community of Idyllwild was not damaged.

While efforts are being scaled back, 1,861 personnel will continue to fight the blaze Monday, Beyer said.


IDYLLWILD, Calif. — Six homes are among the 15 structures destroyed by a raging wildfire in Riverside County, the U.S. Forest Service said Wednesday.

Mountain Fire growingThe Mountain fire near Idyllwild continued to expand at a furious pace, growing from 8,000 acres Tuesday to 14,200 acres Wednesday. The fire was 10% contained, officials said.

In an update Wednesday morning, the U.S. Forest Service said three mobile homes and three residences in Bonita Vista were destroyed.

In Pine Springs, the fire destroyed one commercial building, a workshop, a garage and a cabin.

Eleven other buildings and up to six vehicles also burned.

The fire started Monday afternoon near the junction of highways 243 and 74, burning east of Mountain Center and Apple Canyon.


IDYLLWILD, Calif. — A fast-moving wildfire in Riverside County has blackened about 8,000 acres near Idyllwild, forcing the evacuation of dozens of homes, officials said Tuesday.


A fast-moving fire near Idyllwild has burned thousands of acres since Monday afternoon. (Cal-Fire / July 16, 2013)

The Mountain fire started Monday afternoon off highways 243 and 74 near Idyllwild and quadrupled in size overnight to 4,700 acres. By midday, it had nearly doubled in size again. It was 10% contained, the U.S. Forest Service said.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for 24 homes in the Bonita Vista and Fleming Ranch communities. The Living Free Animal Sanctuary and the Zen Mountain Center were also evacuated. Evacuation centers for residents and pets were set up at local schools and animal shelters.

About 650 firefighters aided by helicopters and air tankers, were attacking the blaze, which has damaged an unknown number of buildings. The cause was under investigation.


lakeside fire LAKESIDE, Calif – A wildfire that spread over rugged open terrain near El Capitan Reservoir was 75 percent contained and holding at 112 acres Wednesday morning.

The so-called Monte Fire erupted for unknown reasons off the 15800 block of El Monte Road in the Lakeside area shortly before 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to the U.S. Forest Service. No structures were damaged or threatened, and no injuries reported as of 10:30 a.m.

The blaze quickly moved away from developed areas as it spread through the outskirts of the Cleveland National Forest.

Both ground and airborne crews were called in to battle the flames, the Forest Service reported.

LAKESIDE, Calif. — Fire crews fought a brush fire burning in steep, rugged terrain near El Capitan Reservoir Tuesday afternoon.

Helicopters and air tankers were dropping water and fire retardant on the steep slopes of El Cajon Mountain north of El Monte Road between El Monte County Park and El Capitan Dam.

Helicopter Water DropThe fire was reported at about 1 p.m and dozens of wildland fire engines had transported ground crews to the blaze. Firefighters used hand tools to cut a containment line around the slow moving fire.

At least three helicopters were shuttling between the reservoir and the fire making water drops.

Ground and airborne crews worked to contain the flames, which blackened roughly 110 acres by early evening, the federal agency reported.

The blaze moved away from developed areas as it spread through the outskirts of Cleveland National Forest, authorities said.

Dry brush fire dangerCAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — A brush fire that scorched nearly 500 acres at the northern end of Camp Pendleton was contained Thursday.

The fire in the San Mateo area, reported about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, was likely started by a training exercise, although no cause has been determined, Camp Pendleton Deputy Fire Chief Robert Johnson said.

About 250 acres had been blackened by Wednesday evening, he said.

Firefighters monitored the blaze overnight reported it contained, or surrounded by defensible fire lines, this morning, Marine spokesman Cpl. Michael Iams said.

camp pendletonCAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — A brush fire that broke out Wednesday afternoon in a training area at the northern end of Camp Pendleton quickly blackened about 300 acres.

The fire began in the San Mateo area about 2:30 p.m. and was likely sparked by a training exercise, although the official cause had yet to be determined, Camp Pendleton Deputy Fire Chief Robert Johnson said.

Firefighters from the North County military installation and the Orange County Fire Authority had the blaze about 10 percent contained as of 5:30 p.m., Johnson said.

No injuries were reported and no structures were threatened, he said, adding that crews expect to have the fire fully contained on Thursday.