Fire on the mountain

The California Department of Forestry



The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) completed its investigation into the cause of the Pines Fire near Julian.  At approximately 2 p.m., Monday (July 29, 2002), a California National Guard OH‑58A+ observation helicopter working in conjunction with the San Diego Interagency Narcotics Task Force experienced an accidental main rotor “blade strike” on the first line of an electrical power line in the Banner Creek area of Julian. Although the blade strike did not cut the power line, the force of the impact caused the support pole to rattle with sufficient force to break the third line, which subsequently fell into the trees causing a fire.

The pilot felt what he thought might have been a blade strike and initiated a precautionary landing in a nearby clearing. The pilot then evacuated the aircraft to a secure site. Once airborne, both pilot and passenger immediately noticed smoke in the direction from which the aircraft had just come. After landing in Julian, the fire was reported to the CDF.

Tom MacPherson, a fire investigator with CDF, has determined that the fire initially began in the trees on Volcan Mountain . Sparks and debris falling from the trees ignited a second fire in the Banner Creek bed. Influenced by 10 to 25 mph winds, the two fires eventually merged into what is now known as the Pines Fire.

The California National Guard has begun its own formal investigation into the matter, as required by the Department of the Army.

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