San Gabriel Valley Foothill Communities Express Gratitude for Firefighters’ Efforts

Signs like this adorn homes all over area foothill cities affected by the Bobcat Fire. – Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

More than 113,000 acres have burned in the Angeles National Forest since Sept. 6

By Terry Miller

Helicopters surveyed the San Gabriel Mountains this past weekend to assess the damage from the Bobcat Fire which is still out of control but not an immediate threat to San Gabriel Valley communities. However, on Monday afternoon new ominous plumes of smoke appeared above the mountains raising concerns if the winds changed. As of Monday afternoon, authorities said that the fire was well in the Angeles National Forest and didn’t pose any immediate danger. The Bobcat Fire was threatening the Mount Wilson area as well as infrastructure near State Route 2 and several foothill communities. On Tuesday structure protection was fire crews’ priorities.

About 1,000 homes were threatened as of Monday night, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Evacuation orders were issued for residents south and west of Upper Big Tujunga Canyon, east of Angeles Forest Highway and north of Angeles Crest Highway. However, the cities of Arcadia, Monrovia, Sierra Madre and Pasadena remain safe thanks to the diligent effects of all concerned in this battle. An evacuation warning remains for Pasadena residents in the foothill neighborhoods north of Sierra Madre Boulevard.

In the aftermath of the immediate threat the massive Bobcat Fire posed to San Gabriel Valley foothill communities, area residents have shown their heartfelt support and thanks for the men and women who helped protect vulnerable foothill cities — employing hand-painted signs, sidewalk chalk art, words of gratitude and impromptu standing ovations for firefighters as they walk the streets to get some well-deserved nourishment, as this reporter witnessed recently outside The Diplomat restaurant in Old Town Monrovia.

Firefighters are now officially rock stars in Monrovia, “First Responders Rock – Bobcat Fire 2020” reads the small rock. – Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

The Bobcat Fire, which started Sept. 6, has now consumed over 113,000 acres of national forest land and, miraculously, has caused relatively little local structural damage in the San Gabriel Valley. However, the fire has destroyed at least 29 structures in northeastern Los Angeles County and that number could still rise.

The Bobcat Fire has the dubious distinction of being one of the largest in Los Angeles County history and could still grow as it is 38% contained as of Wednesday morning, double from where it was Tuesday.

Air attacks were key to fighting this wildland fire, as is the case where terrain is steep and access difficult. Aircraft like Boeing 747s, DC-10s and C-130 cargo planes, along with a plethora of helicopters worked night and day and appeared to seamlessly communicate with ground crews. It was a sight to behold. Carefully choreographed and skillfully implemented, the water and phos-chek drops were perfectly timed and each one gave our foothill communities another reason for hope amid a difficult and disaster-filled year. With 1,556 personnel assigned to the Bobcat Fire along with 187 fire engines, 19 hand crews, 11 helicopters, 20 dozers and nine water tenders, the aircraft provided that much needed support.

Communities around the San Gabriel Valley have been inundating fire stations with gifts of food and drinks. A remarkable outpouring of love for the first responders. At Monroe Elementary School, distance learning students created some colorful notes of thanks for firefighters that adorn the fence surrounding the school in Monrovia.

The Bobcat Fire is one of at least 27 wildfires currently burning in the state, where 26 people have died and 6,100 structures have been destroyed since fire activity picked up in August, the California Department of Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said in a news release on Sunday. Nearly 19,000 firefighters are battling the blazes. More than total 7,900 wildfires have burned over 3.5 million acres of land in California this year.

Hand painted signs like these adorn homes. – Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

More recently, a firefighter was killed in the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino County. On Tuesday, that fallen firefighter was identified as 39-year-old San Diego native, Charles Morton. Morton was a squad boss for the elite Big Bear Interagency Hotshot crew. On Tuesday morning, a procession escorted Morton’s body with the help of CHP and U.S. Forest Service Honor Guard to Ferrara Mortuary in Orange.

The El Dorado fire was started by a couple hosting a gender reveal party where pyrotechnics rapidly got out of hand. The people responsible for the massive fire may now also face manslaughter charges. Though San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson said in a press release that “If investigative reports are filed with our office, we will review all facts, evidence, statements, and reports to determine what criminal charges, if any, need to be filed.”

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September 23, 2020

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Terry Miller

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