Lost Valley's Fires and Fire Department:

Lost Valley Fire Department Logo. Click to enlarge.
Lost Valley Fire Department Logo.
Big Red, the current Lost Valley Firetruck. Click to enlarge.
Big Red, the current Lost Valley Firetruck.
Original LV Firetruck, 1966. Click to enlarge.
Original LV Firetruck, 1966.

Lost Valley has been touched by many fires in it's history.  These are the fires that have been documented:

Please note: It is NOT the policy of Schoepe Scout Reservation at Lost Valley to actively fight fires.  All wildfires are reported to the California Department of Forestry (CDF) for additional handling. 

The Lost Valley Fire Department currently has one Firetruck and a Brush Truck. 

 1911: (August) A fire started by two careless campers sweeps through Lost Valley and onto the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation. The old Stone Brothers cabin is destroyed.

The wooden cabin, 1900. Click to enlarge.
The Stone Brothers cabin, 1900.

1944: (September) A fire on the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation spreads into Lost Valley and Arlie’s barn is burned. To fight the fire, the first road (the Indian Road) is cut into Lost Valley by the Forest Service.

Arlie's log barn circa 1920. Click to enlarge.
Arlie's log barn circa 1920.

1964: (July) A fire on the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation threatens the valley. A fire camp is established in the Field Sports Meadow and the troops are all moved to the main meadow

Fire Camp, 1964. Click to enlarge.
Fire Camp, 1964.

1978: (June 30 ) A smoldering campfire ignites the first destructive fire in the camp’s history. Three or four acres north of Valley’s End (G-3) are burned. Outside crews and fire bombers are brought in to fight the fire.

1986: (June 29) A 70-acre fire burns through the middle of camp, destroying the original stables.

Stables fire, 1986. Click to enlarge.
Stables fire, 1986.

In 1986, Lost Valley Scout Reservation suffered its first major fire. It began in the creek bed, below the upper dam, accidentally set by Scouts playing with matches. It spread rapidly up into Irvine, burning trees and brush. Two campsites were destroyed before it reached the Stables, which burned hot and fast. The fire continued up along the pasture, through the Fern Grove (now a part of the COPE course) and began jumping east. The furthest spot fire was at the mouth of the canyon, beyond Cathedral Rocks. At its peak, there were more than 200 firefighters on the line. All in all, about 71 acres were burned over, but fortunately, no one was seriously hurt.

The hardest blow was the loss not just of the Stables, but of all the saddles and tack (the horses had been let out and grazed peacefully in the main meadow during the blaze). In 1987 a new pole barn Stables was built on the old site.

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(August) The 61,000-acre “Pines Fire” turns towards Lost Valley, burning onto the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation. Camp is evacuated for a week as a precaution.


The Coyote Fire, 2003

Wednesday, July 16, 2003. At 1:19 p.m. a dry lightning strike hit the brush along the north fork of Alder Canyon, about five miles (by air) due north of Lost Valley.

With no rain to dampen the flames, the fire quickly took hold. As a column of dirty smoke loomed up over camp, the fire alarms sounded, and some 600 staff and campers fled.

Fortunately, Lost Valley had been evacuated just the year before, during the Pines Fire, so the staff knew what to do. Within three hours of the sirens, everyone was safe in Sunshine Summit. Twenty minutes after the last vehicle got out, the fire jumped the road.

The fire – dubbed the Coyote Fire by fire officials – burned very fast that first night, moving south and east across the hills. By daybreak the next morning, more 8,000 acres had already been consumed.

Local, State, and Federal firefighters descended on the blaze. Dozens of ground crews were supported by bulldozers, helicopters, and air tankers. Residents were being evacuated from Chihuahua Valley. The fire swept through San Diego State University’s Sky Oaks research station, along the road to camp.

Thursday evening, the fire roared down into Lost Valley. Things looked grim. The flames quickly jumped a line of fire retardant – there hadn’t been time enough to get the bulldozers in – and firefighters were almost ready to pull back.

But they decided to make a stand. They set backfires on the north end of camp. They were surprised to find working fire hydrants, and a full load of water in the tanks. Planes and helicopters pummeled the flames.

They could not stop the fire, but they turned it to the west, away from camp. The fire came within 20 feet of Beckman Hall. It burned into the trailer park, and the bone yard, behind the Maintenance Yard. But not a single building was lost.

Four Grace campsites were damaged or destroyed, but little gear was lost. Even as the fire closed in, firefighters took the time to move gear, and even rescued the troop flags. More than a few of those firefighters were Scouters, or had been Scouts. They understood what camp means.

But the Coyote Fire was far from over. It continued to burn hot and fast across the rugged terrain for another day before firefighters began to get the upper hand. By Saturday, July 19, there were more than 1,300 firefighters on the line, with 17 helicopters, six air tankers, and 35 bulldozers. But still the fire was only 17% contained.

Lost Valley became one of their attack bases, with helicopters flying in and out, and hundreds of firefighters grabbing meals and sleep there when they could.

At its peak, over 2,100 firefighters fought the Coyote Fire. Suppression costs topped $10,000,000. Yet there were only 14 injuries, and not a single home was lost.

It was not until July 23rd – a full week after the blaze began – that the Coyote Fire was officially declared contained. By then, more than 18,700 acres had burned – more than 29 square miles, some of which probably had not burned for more than a century.

Now “contained” is not the same thing as “out” (or controlled, as the firefighters say). Contained means just that – the fire had been contained, and wasn’t going any further. But the Coyote Fire went on burning for several more days. On July 24th there were still more than 1,000 firefighters on the line, knocking down hot spots, and cleaning up within the burn area.

By my best estimate, about 700 acres of camp property burned, mostly in the north end of the valley and up into the hills. Our power line was destroyed (the camp operated on generators until early 2005), along with our phone line. We lost all the tents in Green Bar and Split Pine, about half of them in Oak Glen, and at least one in Valley’s End. Several trailers, a storage container, and the old trading post wagon also burned.

To add to the devastation, heavy rains in August brought flash flooding to the area. Three storms – the first just a week after the fire – scoured the hillsides and canyons around the valley. Little foot-wide creeklets opened up into sandy washes, 20 feet across.

But, camp goes on. The week after the fire, many of the troops signed up for Lost Valley were at nearby Camp Mataguay, along with some of the Lost Valley staff.

With camp still closed for week 5, the council scrambled to find space for Lost Valley-bound troops at other camps all over Southern California.

Finally, on August 3rd, Lost Valley reopened for its sixth and final week of the summer. Three weeks later, Labor Day Family Camp was held. By then, the first little hints of green were visible in the burn area. Life was returning to Lost Valley.

2003 Coyote Fire Pictures:

Start of fire, 7/16/2003. Click to enlarge.
Start of fire, 7/16/2003.
Coyote Fire in camp, 7/18/2003. Click to enlarge.
Coyote Fire in camp, 7/18/2003.
Coyote Fire. Click to enlarge.
Coyote Fire.
Boneyard on fire, 7/18/2003. Click to enlarge.
Boneyard on fire, 7/18/2003.
Coyote Fire and backfire meet, 7/18/2003. Click to enlarge.
Coyote Fire and backfire meet, 7/18/2003.
Coyote Fire at night. Click to enlarge.
Coyote Fire at night.
Lost Valley Fire Crew members watch the fire burn. Click to enlarge.
Lost Valley Fire Crew
members watch the fire burn.
Trees after the fire. Click to enlarge.
Trees after the fire.
Cat Road after fire. Click to enlarge.
Cat Road after fire.
Lost Valley Road after fire. Click to enlarge.
Lost Valley Road
after fire.
Lost Valley Fire Crew, 2007. Click to enlarge.
Lost Valley Fire Crew, 2007.
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