‘It was all burning’: Firefighters worked to save homes as Stone Fire spread to 340 acres

Scenes from the Stone Fire near Santa Margarita

The recent rash of wild fires continued on Sunday when the Stone Fire sparked near Santa Margarita and burned 340 acres.
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The recent rash of wild fires continued on Sunday when the Stone Fire sparked near Santa Margarita and burned 340 acres.

Update Monday, 7:15 a.m.

The Stone Fire stayed at 340 acres overnight and is now 40 percent contained.

Update 10:20 p.m.

Evacuation orders have been lifted for residents affected by the Stone Fire, according to Cal Fire. Road closures will remain overnight for the public. The fire has burned about 340 acres.

Update 9 p.m.

When Don Dowling arrived at his Creston home Sunday after a trip to Morro Bay, he was greeted by flashing lights and billowing smoke.

He pulled into the driveway of the home that he and his wife Lora had lived in for the past 36 years and looked in disbelief as flames from the Stone Fire burned dangerously close to his home. Luckily, fire crews also arrived just as Dowling did.

“They saved the place,” Dowling said of the firefighter’s efforts. “They saved the shed that’s in the back, they saved the house. They saved the barn, too. It was all burning.”

The fire seared the dry grass in the hills around the home and a few leaves off a tree 10 yards away from the home. Fire crews to stop the fire before it reached Dowling’s home, but it jumped across Highway 58 and burned nearby hills. The progress of the Stone Fire, which began around 2 p.m, was stopped around 5:30, according to SLO County Fire Chief Scott Jalbert, after it Cal Fire said it had burned 340 acres. As of 7 p.m. it was 10 percent contained.

It seemed like deja vu for the Dowlings, whose property narrowly escaped damage when the Hill Fire burned 1,600 acres just south of their home. The only lost property Sunday was a horse that escaped.

The Dowling’s next-door neighbor wasn’t so lucky.

“They lost a mobile home and a barn,” Dowling said.

It was the only known lost property, according to Cal Fire.

Cal Fire used six air tankers, including three large DC-10s. Normally those tankers wouldn’t be flying, according to Jalbert, but they were being used to fight the nearby Alamo and Whittier Fires.

“When we get a new fire, we divert aircraft to keep the smaller fires small,” Jalbert said. “We are not stretched thin as we can get, but we are stretched pretty thin.”

Highway 58 was still closed at 6:30 p.m. as crews worked to put out hot spots, but Jalbert said reopening the road was a priority. He said he expected crews to be working in the area until Monday, maybe longer. Their work hasn’t been in vain.

“If it hadn’t been for the fire company we wouldn’t have a house today,” Dowling said. “They did a fine job.”

A huge contingency of fire crews, air support and heavy equipment was deployed to a brush fire that started about 2 p.m. Sunday, July 9, 2017, along Highway 58 near Huero Huero Road east of Santa Margarita.

Update 7 p.m.

The Stone Fire burning along Highway 58 and Huer Huero Road has grown to 340 acres and is at 10 percent containment. About 300 fire personnel are fighting the fire, down from 500 earlier Sunday. Cal Fire reports the forward progress of the fire has been stopped.

Update 5:30 p.m.

Here is an updated list of road closures:

▪ Huer Huero at Parkhill Road.

▪ Highway 58 at Highway 229.

▪ Highway 58 at O’Donovan.

▪ Highway 58 eastbound at LaPanza

▪ O’Donovan at Highway 229.

Update 3:55 p.m.

A Red Cross shelter is being set up at Santa Margarita Elementary School. The shelter will open by 5 p.m., according to Cal Fire.

Update 3:40 p.m.

Evacuation orders are in place for the following areas:

▪ Highway 58 from Huer Huero Road to O’Donovan Road and Shooting Star Road

▪ Blue Road, Blue Ridge Road and Isabel Road Drive

Air tankers were called in to fight the Stone Fire burning along Highway 58 east of Santa Margarita on Sunday, July 9, 2017. Watch as a DC-10 and other air tankers make several drops of fire retardant as the blaze threatened nearby homes.

Update 3:05 p.m.

The fire has now grown to more than 200 acres, Cal Fire said, and the blaze jumped over Highway 58. More than 500 firefighters are en route to battle the blaze. The following roads are closed in the area, according to the CHP:

▪ Highway 58 between Huer Huero Road and O’Donovan Road

▪ Huer Huero Road from Parkhill Road to Highway 58

▪ Parkhill Road at Huer Huero Road

▪ O’Donovan Road at Highway 229

According to the scanner, there is a structure threat and firefighters are trying to get residents evacuated.

Update 3 p.m.

According to the California Highway Patrol, Cal Fire is requesting road closures on Huer Huero Road from Parkhill Road to Highway 58, Highway 58 between Huer Huero Road and O’Donovan Road, and O’Donovan Road at Highway 229. The CHP’s dispatch log also noted that Cal Fire said the fire had jumped Highway 58.

Original story:

A fire near Santa Margarita has already burned about 20 to 30 acres of land since it began around 2 p.m., according to Cal Fire.

The fire was initially reported as a vegetation fire on Huer Huero Road, east of Santa Margarita. By 2:20 p.m., Cal Fire reported the blaze had burned about 20 to 30 acres of land with a “moderate rate of spread.”

There are a number of structures in the area, Cal Fire said.

This story will be updated.

Gabby Ferreira: 805-781-7858, @Its_GabbyF