Residents thank fire crews for saving homes

Bautista canyon fire.
Conservation Camp fire crews, CALFIRE and other agencies respond to the Fairview Fire.

Fairview Fire, Tropical Storm Kay collide

Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles County conservation camp fire crews responded to the Fairview Fire near Hemet, which started on Sept. 5 in Bautista Canyon.

Approximately 270 incarcerated hand crew members, were led by CDCR correctional officers, CDCR Strike Team leaders, CAL FIRE captains, and CAL FIRE Strike Team leaders. They responded in conditions that, according to the incident meteorologist, have never occurred before.

A record breaking heat wave of 106 degrees was followed immediately by Tropical Storm Kay landing in the region on Sept. 8.

“This was the first time in California’s recorded history a wildland fire was combined with a tropical storm landing,” said Lt. Brian Sloat, Camp Commander of Oak Glen Conservation Camp. “The conditions created a dangerous situation beyond the normal fire dangers as the freshly burned ground and steep terrain caused immediate flooding and mudslides.”

Sloat has been with CDCR for 28 years, 10 of those at four camps. He was assigned as the CDCR Agency Representative during the Fairview Fire incident.

“The incarcerated hand crews and CDCR staff provide hands-on direct action firefighting assignments that are critical to the containment of wildland fires,” Lt. Sloat said. “The assigned CDCR crews and staff performed exceptionally well on very little sleep in extreme conditions during the opening days of the incident.”

As the fire spread through Bautista Canyon, staff and participants at Bautista Conservation Camp in Hemet were safely evacuated to Oak Glen Conservation Camp in Yucaipa. The Bautista Camp incarcerated hand crews also responded to the Fairview Fire that was threatening their own living location. They were able to safely return to the camp after the incident.

Crews from the following conservation camps responded to the Fairview Fire:

  • Miramonte
  • Acton
  • Oak Glen
  • Bautista
  • Fenner Canyon
  • La Cima
  • Vallecito
  • Norco
  • Cuesta.

In addition to the incarcerated hand crews, a Mobile Kitchen Unit (MKU) was staffed by three CDCR correctional officers, a correctional supervisor, 36 camp participants, and three CAL FIRE captains. The MKU provided the very important resource of food during the incident, serving approximately 29,000 meals.

A CDCR Medical Emergency Response Team consisting of two registered nurses and a doctor were deployed to provide any onsite medical attention to staff or camp participants. Two correctional officers were also deployed to provide transportation logistics.

Lt. Sloat also recognized CAL FIRE Incident Management Team 6, led by Deputy Chief Jeff Veik, who he says were instrumental in the successful management of this event.

The Fairview Fire was active for 35 days and burned more than 28,000 acres, leaving two dead and dozens of structures destroyed.

A thank you from a community saved

To recognize the heroic efforts of all of the agencies that responded to the Fairview Fire emergency, several citizens from the Sycamore Springs Ranch community sent a heartfelt thank you.

To Our Public Safety Heroes,

There are many of us in the Sycamore Springs Ranch Community who want to join together in expressing our appreciation for the dedicated men and women of the many emergency response agencies who rose to the occasion in extinguishing the Fairview fire this year.

Our expression of gratitude is for no trivial reasons. Your hard-working, dedicated and brave teams prevented our community from certain devastation. The advancing fire chased us off of the properties that we have worked a lifetime to achieve, and hold dear, but you stopped its advance. There is no combination of words that can adequately express our profound gratitude.

Our neighbors have shared some thoughts that we have gathered below.

We hope that they can be an encouragement to all of those who serve to save our communities:

Caroline and Marty: “We would like to express our appreciation for a tough job very well done by Cal Fire, numerous other fire departments and all first responders. We hauled 8 horses, 2 dogs and 2 cats to safety in the keeping of animal lovers who showed us nothing but caring and kindness. Hurricane Kay scared us with her powerful winds coming west right at our community of Sycamore Springs Ranch, then she dumped a bunch of rain all over the area and helped the fire fighters save the day – and our homes. Thank you to all who participated in fighting the Fairview Fire, maintaining law order and preventing looting. We appreciate the risk in your work and thank God for you – and the rain.”

The Underwood Family: “From one first responder family to another, we want to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. We know firsthand not only the sacrifice you make every day but the burden your family bears as well. Our deepest appreciation goes out to you AND your families. The prospect of losing our house and property was unsettling, but we knew that we were in capable, caring hands. Thank you for all you did to protect us, not only from the fire, but also from possible looters. Thank you, too, for working to protect our neighbors’ homes and the community at large. You are our heroes.”

Bill and Cherie: “We would like to thank all the public safety folks who put their lives on the line to save so many properties from devastation. We were so glad to get home and see our neighbors and get our animals back home. We really appreciate all that the public safety gave.”

Jim and Alyce: “As far as we are concerned, one of the biggest tragedies of our lives was averted because of your willingness to put your own safety and well-being on the line for the job that you do. You are greatly appreciated. Thank you.”

Greg and Debbie: “To the law enforcement agencies, thank you for your considerate efforts to alert us of the impending fire threat, and keeping our properties secure in our absence. To the fire fighters and support staff, there are not enough words to express our appreciation for your tireless and brave devotion fighting a very aggressive and dangerous fire, while protecting our homes and ranch property. Thank you all so very much.”

Jeremy and Ava: “First and foremost my family and I want to thank you for all of your efforts during the Fairview Fire. I know the weather and terrain made it difficult and yet every day you guys gave it your best. It was a very frightening time for our community but I know if the fire came any closer your efforts would have doubled to save our homes. We are sincerely grateful to all of you.”

Mary: “Our first responders were amazing on all levels, and deserve our continued respect, support, praise and prayers. They are still on the front lines protecting lives and property. They sacrifice their safety for all of us daily. Love our SSR community.”

Other signatures on the letter included Sage and Carolina, Dave H., Matthias and Vroni B., Randy D., Bob M., and the Baker family.

Learn more about the CDCR/CAL FIRE camps and firefighters.

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