Last Saturday, July 21, Linda Freeman was returning home from visiting her husband at the hospital when she saw smoke as she drove through the East Gate. She arrived on her cul-de-sac to see at least 20 people, including neighbors, working hoses in her backyard, and the fire department arriving from Canyon Lake Dr. North and Quail Valley. Fire trucks and hoses briefly closed Canyon Lake Dr. North, according to witnesses.
A brush fire had broken out in two locations, burning into her backyard and catching her roof on fire and also burning brush in an adjacent lot in Quail Valley. But neighbors were quick to spot the blaze and take action to help put out the fire, even before firefighters arrived. One of those who ran to help was Ruben Flores, who heard the fire call on his scanner and brought his camera.
Linda says she heard an SCE power pole exploded and arced into the vacant lot next to her house. Ruben says the fire started when an EZ-up canopy from a home on Canyon Lake Dr. North was picked up by a gust of wind and blown into an overhead power line, creating sparks that started a blaze on the Quail Valley side of the fence. The CAL-Fire PIO was unable to verify the cause for the first fire, but debris exposure was listed as the cause of the second blaze.
The incident took place at about 4 p.m., according to Cal Fire's incident report. The report lists 23200 block of Clipper Ct. and Canyon Lake Drive North as the location. A total of six engines and one truck responded. Canyon Lake Station 60, Lake Elsinore Station 94 and Quail Valley Station 5 were on scene.
According to the report, engines responded to two separate fires. The incident reports says, "Both fires were quickly contained by firefighters to under one-half acre, with damage to the roof of one home."
Ruben says, prior to Cal Fire's arrival, the brush fire spread and started to catch a roof on fire on Clipper Ct. that backs up the empty lot on the Quail Valley side. He said residents put the fire out before fire crews arrived.
Kaydee Miller witnessed all the action and felt a “thank you” should go out to the young men who took hoses and buckets of water before the fire department arrived.
According to Ruben, one of teens who helped was Weston Braga, a resident of Mayflower Dr., who says he saw the smoke and began alerting neighbors. He ran down to Clipper Ct. where he got permission from a resident to jump their fence into Quail Valley. He then jumped back over the fence behind homes on Canyon Lake Dr. North, grabbed a water hose and started spraying the flames.
Meanwhile, Ruben and two other teens also began assisting. Ruben says, "I spotted the fire creeping behind a home at the end of Red Setter and, after knocking on the door and no one answering, I flagged down Cody Terry and Justin Kunkel and told them I needed their help."
Ruben, Cody and Justin entered a backyard where they ran into Weston. Working together they got the water hose connected and began spraying the burning brush. Another young man, Jackson Jones, also pitched in with his hose and a neighbor's hose.
Ruben says, "During the rush to get water onto the brush, I totally forgot that I had heard about possible wires down over CAL-Fire's communication. It was not until a firefighter got over to us that he mentioned it and we were like 'wow.’"
Ruben says he realizes they were lucky. "Had those wires been in contact with the perimeter fence, we could have all been killed, as Weston was jumping the fence and I helped Cody jump the fence to get water onto burning hot spots."
Linda says the fire took out several of her trees, about 120 feet of landscaping and her irrigation system. It also charred her patio roof cover. But it could have been so much worse without the help of her neighbors.
"We live in a very special community," she says. "Our neighbors are one of the best features of Canyon Lake. Without them my house would have burned down."