SAN DIEGO COUNTY, California — The Valley Fire is nearly out, crews are getting an up-close look at the devastation from the fire that burned nearly two weeks in the Cleveland National Forest. Through the over 17,000 charred acres, San Diego County Deputy Fire Marshal David Sibbet said there are some bright spots.
“Home saved there and home saved there, so there’s about eight of them within the burned vegetation area,” he said.
Sibbet showed his damage assessment in Lawson Valley, where he has been going door to door in order to provide accurate information to Valley Fire residents, some who have evacuated and not returned.
Sibbet says the challenge comes in trying to properly identify home numbers and street names where signs may have burned down.
“So this is a very large property with several outbuildings often times it’s hard to figure out that this was a third garage with storage,” Sibbet said while surveying the damage to a property.
“It might take 30 minutes to an hour just to figure out what the structures are on large rural properties, the outbuildings are really common. It takes a long time to just decipher the lay of the land to understand what you were looking at,” he said.
The fast-moving Valley Fire that broke out in the Japatul Valley on September 5 destroyed 30 homes and 31 outbuildings.
Sibbet has been trying to find clear information in the ash and rubble that would help residents with insurance filing in the long months ahead of rebuilding their lives.
“We can find a characteristic that survived, like for this one, obviously, you have a hot water heater and a chimney which tells us it is a single-family residence,” he said.
The Cleveland National Forest department has taken over mopping up the hotspots for the Valley Fire holding at 91% containment.
Unfortunately, the fire marshal says even having defensible space, cleared at 200 feet all-around a home still doesn’t protect it from a destructive fire.
“This guy doesn’t have a single igniting vegetation anywhere near the outside of his building, and it was still lost,” Sibbet said.
Some are finding ways to say thank you to the hard-working firefighters still working tirelessly with handwritten signs that read “Thank you firefighters!”
Many recognize that once the Valley Fire is 100% out, it is still only the beginning for residents, who lost everything in the disaster. Officials are helping to do their part.
“As part of the county damage assessment team, it’s our job to get people back on their feet As soon as possible,” Sibbet said.
Cleveland National Forest reports that updated mapping shows that the Valley Fire is about 572 acres smaller than previously thought, and the size is at 17,093 acres.