SAN DIEGO — Last summer’s most destructive wildfire was sparked by a Bureau of Land Management Jeep that ignited dry brush in the desert just east of the Laguna Mountains, fire investigators announced Friday.
The Chariot Fire began just before 1 p.m. July 6 near Butterfield Ranch Resort and the Great Southern Overland Stage Route on land managed by the BLM, according to Cal Fire. The blaze, which burned out of control for 10 days, destroyed 149 buildings and blackened 7,055 acres. More than 2,100 firefighters from around the state eventually stopped the fire from spreading.
“It is critical that everyone be extra cautious outdoors with any activity that may cause a spark,” Cal Fire Southern Region Chief Dale Hutchinson said in a statement released this morning. “This year especially we need the public to remember that one less spark means one less wildfire.”
No major injuries occurred as a result of the Chariot Fire but a dozen firefighters were treated for minor injuries, mostly heat exhaustion, according to Cal Fire.
The majority of the structures lost were campground cabins in the Mount Laguna area.
Investigators have identified the BLM agent who was driving the Jeep Cherokee that started the fire, but he has refused to answer questions on the advice of his attorney, UT San Diego reported. The BLM completed its own investigation, but the agency has refused release it, the newspaper said.