Calif. RV Park Narrowly Escapes a Fiery Inferno
Editor's Note: The following update on the Silver Fire in Southern California's San Jacinto Mountains near Banning that threatened the Silent Valley Club, a private RV park, comes via a blog distributed by the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
RVs and cars are leaving the Silent Valley Club RV park near Poppet Flat after residents spent a tense 21 hours waiting to evacuate.
“You are clear to leave and go to Highway 243,” an official said on a bullhorn at about 10.45 a.m. ”(Highway) 243 is open to Idyllwild only. No re-entry.”
Minutes before, three RVs parked in a dirt lot across from the residential area of the park headed toward Highway 243.
The occupants of the RVs, who are members of the private park, said many people remained overnight in the residential area of Silent Valley, which they said has 850 spaces and was about half full when the fire struck. Some cars left Wednesday, the drivers leaving their RVs behind, they said.
On Wednesday night, the fire burned within a half-mile or mile from the dirt lot, which is for overflow parking, said Marilyn Wisely, 74.
Wisely said she sat horrified in her RV with her husband, Brent, 70, as they watched the television newsWednesday night and spotted their RV on the TV screen and then saw the news helicopter pan over the nearby fire in Poppet Flat.
“We watched it burn right down the street,” Marilyn Wisely said. “It was freakish.”
“It was scary,” Brent Wisely said as a CalFire helicopter buzzed overhead.
Earlier Wednesday, the fire came within 20 feet of the couple’s RV, where they live year-round.
A Cal Fire bulldozer pushed dried leaves and brush into the fire to create a buffer zone, they said.
A helicopter dropped fire retardant on their RV and car, Brent Wisely said, pointing to the orange spots and streaks on his tan shorts, which he said was retardant that splashed on him as he was washing off their vehicles.
They said sheriff`s deputies Wednesday told the couple to wait for an escort to leave — but no one arrived.
Marilyn Wisely said she had felt safe overnight in the dirt lot.
“The dirt won’t burn,” she said. “I’d rather be safe.”
The RVs, she said, all had propane and could quickly catch fire if embers hit them.
Gary Deatsch, 74, and Roy Carrozza, 69, both of Yucaipa, also rode out the night on the mountain. They sat chatting on canvas chairs near their RVs.
The men had just finished setting up their RVs Wednesday when they smelled smoke.
They also saw the fire come within 25 feet of their RVs.
“”I felt anxiety,” Carrozza said. “Absolutely. It was 25 feet from my coach. When you start feeling heat, you get the hell out.”
Later Thursday morning, Carrozza, Deatsch and the Wisleys left the mountain. They were directed to head south on Highway 243, toward Idyllwild.
To the north, toward Banning, a few small fires still burned next to the road amid the blackened landscape, and smoke rose in spots from the black and gray ashes in the fire’s wake.
Smoke filled the air above the remains of what appeared to be a large metal shed just off Highway 243 near the Poppet Flats road. Four fire trucks remained parked nearby in front of a home, apparently unscathed.
Meanwhile, the following update comes via Facebook from Cathie Meyer via Bull By The Horns, Facebook edition.
An update from a late night phone call with Jo Ann Trosper: with 16 employees still there, the park was surviving with hot spots being dealt with, fire fighters were starting some back fires in different mountain areas, no traffic (except emergency vehicles) on 243 or Poppet Flats road, all RVs and Motor homes that were in the overflow lot last night were not going anywhere until possibly this morning with an escort up Poppet Flats and Sheriff did not allow them back into the park. Once there are no hot spots along 243 it will be open to residents only and during day light hours only until guard rails are replaced as with the Esparanza Fire. With the Esparanza fire 7 years ago, we were allowed up the mountain to retrieve our trailer with showing our parking permit, so have yours ready when you plan to go back. In that fire I got out on the Friday and we got back up on Sunday to get out rig, so I would recommend to anyone to wait until Friday, but check with Cal Fire or Highway Patrol before making your trip. Please remember that until electricity is restored and the water tested, no one can stay in the park.