USA — A recent wildfire east of Lakeside, in which two hikers had to be rescued by helicopter, was started by two juveniles playing with fire in a grassy area, Cal Fire reported Thursday.
The blaze broke out Saturday afternoon and burned 926 acres up the side of El Capitan before it was extinguished. Flames came close to some homes but did not damage structures or hurt anyone.
Two hikers climbing El Capitan were rescued by the crew of a sheriff’s helicopter when the flames were just 20 feet away.
At a news conference Thursday, one of the hikers, Andre Doria, said he could hear the helicopter but couldn’t see it through the smoke until it touched its skids against the hillside with “precise skill.”
Because of the helicopter’s small size, he had them take his girlfriend, Meg Rippy, first.
“I would not leave her, and I wanted her to be saved first,” Doria said.
He said he felt relief as the aircraft took off and she blew him a kiss.
The chopper returned moments later, and took off with him gripping the belt of sheriff’s Deputy Gary Kneeshaw, who stood on a skid as they flew about a half-mile through smoke and embers that entered the cockpit.
The couple called Kneeshaw and Deputy Scott Bligh heroes.
Provaznik said no further information could be released about the cause of the fire since it involved juveniles.
There has been a rash of recent fires started by youngsters playing with matches, said Roxanne Provaznik of Cal Fire.