Orange County

‘The Whole House Rattled': Resident Describes Explosion During Jim Fire

The Jim Fire burned more than 500 acres in Cleveland National Forest.

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Residents living near Trabuco Canyon in eastern Orange County say they believe they know how a 500-acre brush fire started and that it could have been avoided.

Water dropping helicopters are still trying to put out the Jim Fire, which has spread to more than 500 acres this week in the Cleveland National Forest. Containment was at 50 percent Friday.

Stevie Parker, a resident, says it is clear to him what started it when he heard an explosion. 

“The whole house rattled and i’m like ‘what in the heck was that?’” Parker said. “And that’s when I called 9-1-1 everyone called 9-1-1 and said hey I don’t know if this is prescribed or not, but this is insane.” 

A video from Santiago Peak shows where the fire started just after 11 a.m. Wednesday. Forestry officials describe the area as a drainage bottom and say it spread uphill from there.

Parker drove down the hill from his home and found a convoy of Marines. He approached them with a question. 

“‘What are you guys doing here? Are you here to help the fire?’ And one of the guys looks at me dead in the eye and says ‘No we’re back there blowing stuff up,'" Parker said.


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Two weeks ago, the people who live in remote cabins near the Holy Jim Trail were told to move out this week because the forest service was in the last phase of a dam removal project. 

“And the forest service has been doing that in all  the national forests clearing these check dams that were put in decades ago and you know that’s great if they need to take them out but at what cost?” Parker said. 

The plume of smoke could be seen 50 miles away. No structures have been lost but one firefighter was slightly injured. 

“Yeah no structures they say have been lost but structures can be rebuilt, forests take years and years to grow,” Parker said. 

The fire could also be seen from Robinson Ranch where dozens of homes back up to the canyon. 

“If somebody up there picnicking, not so good, but if they’re up there working well, I don't know, they got to do the work,” Joe Nowocinski, a resident, said. 

In an email to NBC4, forestry officials confirm they had personnel in the area working on that project but say there will be a formal investigation and they will not yet list a cause of the fire.

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