State drought has left dangerous old groves scattered all over San Diego County

Tomato field helped stop Highway Fire

BONSALL, Calif. - Drought and fire together make a devastating couple.

California's extreme drought conditions have left hundreds -- if not thousands -- of dead or dying groves of trees and brush throughout San Diego County. Each one of them is a matchstick.

"An old grove will cause a lot of embers to fly in other directions," said North County Fire spokesman John Buchanan.

The Highway Fire touched through several groves on its way to burning 400 acres between Interstate 15 and Bonsall.

Buchanan said they look out for old groves on every fire.

"It's actually like a triage thing," he said. "We want to make sure that when we go to fight a fire that we actually will be able to hold it in that area."

Luckily, the Highway Fire was confronted with a different kind of grove -- a healthy, watered tomato farm nestled between I-15 and Bonsall.

Buchanan said the farm stalled the fire long enough to let firefighters catch up.

"The fire will roll up to it, hit a lot of moisture and actually slow down and take a lot of the heat off," Buchanan said. "Firefighters can get up there and actually put it out before it continues."


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