Mountain Fire Forces Evacuations

Mountain Fire Forces Evacuations

Mountain Center, Calif. - Parked at Fobes Ranch Road with binoculars in hand, long time Mountain Center residents Tom Firth and Mike Thomas monitored the flames that burned through Mike's former neighborhood in May Valley.

"My kids grew up back there," Thomas said. "It's a beautiful beautiful place. My son said it's gone."

Tom watched the fire scorch his deer camp, a spot he's hunted for years.

"It's gone," Firth said.

A few miles down the road, residents of the spread out yet tight-knit community gathered at the general store just outside the Lake Hemet camp ground, watching the flames and waiting on information.

"There's two small communities right behind us here," U.S. Forest Service Fire Information Officer, Bob Poole said. "Bonita Vista and Pine Ranch. Both those areas were evacuated yesterday (Monday) afternoon. We know we have some structure damage. We know we have some structures lost."

A damage assessment was completed for the Bonita Vista, Pine Springs and Zen Mountain Center at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The Zen Mountain Center was not damaged.

Three mobile homes and three residences were destroyed in Bonita Vista. One residence was damaged.

At the Pine Springs Ranch, one commercial building, a workshop, garage, and cabin were burned.

Palm Springs Ranch is the sight of a Christian youth camp. More than 100 campers were evacuated from the camp Monday.

Fritz Wuttke works at the camp and and considers it home.

"It looks like it went right through it," Wuttke said. "It's pretty devastating."

Ralph Savory lives just down the road from the fire in Garner Valley. Watching the fire from the Lake Hemet Market at 2 p.m. Tuesday he said he was very nervous.

"We're waiting for the big wind shift like it did there in Yarnell," Savory said in reference to a recent devastating blaze in Arizona. "It could happen at any moment. Fortunately the weather conditions are such that we feel pretty sure its going to stay status quo."

Meanwhile, campers at Lake Hemet watched as fire crews flew helicopters down to the lake to pick up water to battle the fast moving flames. The smoke can clearly be seen from the campsites.

"We just watch and pray for the fire fighters," a camper said. "We were just scared for the fire fighters pretty much. And the people around there."

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