Although the odds were stacked against it from the outset, the Pinezanita campground in the popular San Diego County mountain town of Julian survived the most devastating wildfire in California history.
“All of us are safe and the park was untouched by the Cedar wildfire, thanks to hard work by the boys to clear fire breaks, by firefighters setting backfires, and to your prayers,” campground operator Christine Stanley said in an e-mail to RVBUSINESS.com.
Pinezanita, which provides RV and tent sites and cottage rentals, was without phone or electricity service today (Oct. 31), but utilities were expected to be restored within a week or two, Stanley said. “Until we have those services,” she said, “we will remain closed.”
Autumn is typically one of the busiest times of year for Julian, a popular retreat at an altitude of 4,200-feet that is revered as much for its sumptious apple pies as it is for its quaint antique shops and gold-mining history. But the 272,318-acre Cedar fire, the largest single wildfire in the state’s history, has severely damaged the tourism business that normally thrives this time of year. The fire was continuing to burn in an eastwardly direction away from Julian toward Mount Laguna this morning, according the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Stanley and other mountain residents, meanwhile, were breathing a sigh of relief as fire crews, buoyed by high humidity and occasional showers, fought to contain a series of wildfires in mountain communities across Southern California. The latest news reports this morning indicated that Big Bear Lake was the only mountain resort community that still faced a significant fire threat..
Damage from this week’s wildfires has been significant, with nearly 750,000 acres consumed, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island, and at least 2,612 homes destroyed, with total losses exceeding $2 billion.
And while firefighters appeared to be making progress in their efforts to contain the blazes, memories of the fast-moving fires remained fresh in the minds of campground operators and other business owners.
“The fire was just across the freeway from us,” said Tweet Brumaghim, park manager for the 179-space Circle RV Ranch in El Cajon, 22 miles east of downtown San Diego. Circle RV served as a temporary shelter for about 40 RV-owning homeowners who fled the fires elsewhere in San Diego County.
“We watched and prayed and readied the fire hoses that one of our extended stays (a camper) got from his work,” she said. “We turned on all the sprinklers and saturated our banks and waited. We went door to door twice, once to alert everyone of the potential danger and the last time to assess the situation and to leave.”
Brumaghim said voluntary evacuations took place at the park beginning at 1 a.m. Monday, with more than half of her guests opting to leave the area. Some of the guests returned Tuesday and Wednesday, while others chose to head back home in their RVs to check on their residences. “Many will live on their properties until rebuilding is done,“ she said, adding, “The devastation is unreal.”