Chancellor among 50 evacuated during 10-acre brushfire

William Dudley

William Dudley
Felipe Oliveira

EDITOR’S NOTE–Media Communications students Felipe Oliveira  and William Dudley on Friday covered the 10-acre brush fire that burned a few hundred yards north of the campus.  Dudley wrote the story that appears below and Oliveira put together an accompanying YouTube video report.  

Plume of smoke alerted Grossmont College to off-campus brushfire

GROSSMONT COLLEGE, August 27–A 10-acre brushfire several hundred yards north of Grossmont College forced the evacuation of approximately 50 persons on campus late Friday morning, including Chancellor Cindy L. Miles, before it was successfully contained by firefighters.

The evacuees were in buildings along the northern rim of the campus, including the temporary structure housing the offices of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, where Miles maintains her office.

Chancellor Miles, left, and Dana Quittner, district public information officer, check with campus police officer Marco Bareno on fire's status. Custodial Supervisor Kurt Brauer is in background

The Chancellor told the GC Summit that although the fire briefly disrupted district business during the evacuation, she and other officials were able to continue their meeting in a nearby parking lot. The Chancellor later met with and congratulated fire and police officials on their quick response to the fire, which was first reported at 10:43 a.m. 

Heartland Fire Public Information Officer Sonny Saghera said the blaze apparently was caused by construction workers building a fence on property overlooking State Highway 125 between the college and Santee. He said the brushfire did not cause injuries or damage to any structures.

At least sixty firefighters from various fire departments, including those from El Cajon, Heartland, Santee, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, San Miguel Fire Protection District, and Cal Fire were involved in battling the blaze assisted by police and sheriff department units and campus police. Two hand crews were joined by two helicopters, and two fixed-wing air units that made multiple forays dumping water and retardant on the fire. Saghera said that progress was complicated by the lack of easy access, the difficult terrain, and gusty winds.  

He also said it was a challenge for dispatchers to describe to the fire units exactly how to get to the blaze, which they eventually some units  reached via a gate on the college’s northern perimeter and continuing up a dirt path several hundred yards.  Other units fought the blaze from below.

From the modular village on another part of campus, Grossmont President Sunita Cooke’s office sent out campus email advisories about the course of the fire, which never came close enough to the main campus to require evacuation of any classes. In addition to the District Offices, the Gafcon construction offices, and maintenance and storage yards were evacuated. Vehicle traffic on the northern side of the Grossmont College Drive loop was temporarily closed.

Fire crew surveys the brush

Crews had the fire contained in less than two hours, but they stayed through the evening to “mop up” and prevent any flare ups.
Dudley, a GC Summit staff member, is a student in Media Communications 132.