The KOA campground in San Bernardino, Calif. was evacuated three times this week, but firefighters managed to save the main buildings and the interior of the park as wildfires raged across numerous mountain and foothill communities of Southern California, according to Judy Miller, co-executive director of the California Travel Parks Association (CTPA).
In San Diego County, the fires destroyed two campsites at the Santee Lakes Regional Park and came within 100 yards of the Woods Valley Kampground, but park operators managed to save the business with the help of staff members, area residents and two helicopter water drops, Miller said.
The fate of other campgrounds located near the popular Southern California mountain resort communities of Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear Lake, Julian and Pine Valley was unclear, however, as more than 13,000 firefighters fought to save the popular tourist towns from some of the worst wildfires in California history.
“We were not able to reach all of our members,” Miller told RVBUSINESS.COM Wednesday (Oct. 29). “Several didn’t answer their phones, so we have no report from those parks.”
Nearly every major mountain resort community in Southern California was evacuated Wednesday as raging wildfires burned out of control through thousands of acres of dead and dying pine trees. The trees, many of which had already had the life sucked out of them by nearly five years of drought and an unprecedented bark beetle infestation, have been exploding into flames, creating 300-foot high walls of fire in some locations, according to published reports.
“This fire has been nothing short of apocalyptic,” Janet Marshall, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told the Los Angeles Times.
In San Diego County, the scenic mountain resort community of Lake Cuyamaca was destroyed by fire earlier this week, according to published reports, while evacuations were underway in the historic, 4,000-foot gold-mining town of Julian as well as the neighboring Mount Palomar area, near the Riverside County line. Further north, the popular resort communities of Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake, in San Bernardino County, were both evacuated Wednesday as windswept flames raced toward the outskirts of each community.
As of this morning (Oct. 30), television reports indicated that the firefighters succeeded in protecting downtown Julian. However, at least 300 homes in outlying areas to the south, southeast and southwest of Julian had been destroyed, according to today’s editions of the San Diego Union Tribune.
Further north, more than 350 homes had also been destroyed in the Lake Arrowhead area, according to The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif. However, the extent of fire damage in the Lake Arrowhead and neighboring Big Bear Lake areas was unclear.
By late Wednesday, more than 634,000 acres had been consumed by nine major wildfires and eight offshoots in Southern California mountain communities stretching from Ventura County southward through Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties to the Mexican border, according to published reports. According to Reuters, the fires had consumed 2,427 homes and caused more than $1 billion in insured losses, making this week’s fires the second most costly wildfire disaster in California history.
While one of the San Diego fires was caused by a lost hunter who lit a fire to signal his location, several of the other wildfires were believed to have been caused by arsonists. At least 20 people have been killed by the fires, including Steven L. Rucker, 38, a firefighter and paramedic from the Marin County town of Novato.