Claim says feds started wildfire in Mount Laguna area that burned 100 cabins to the ground

Attorney says government Jeep sparked fire

SAN DIEGO - The federal government started a wildfire in the Mount Laguna area that burned down the cabins of 100 people and won't admit it, according to an attorney who brought the claims to Team 10 Thursday afternoon.

"We sprinkled my mom's ashes up there ... all these things that went poof with the forest," said Julie Woodworth Halliday, one person who lost a cabin in last summer's Chariot Fire.

John Fiske of Gomez Trial Attorneys, who represents Halliday, said he believes the cause was a Jeep driven by someone at the Bureau of Land Management.

Fiske said hired investigators, because neither the BLM nor Cal Fire, which investigated the cause.

Sources told Team 10 the reports are in but have not been released.

"We've hired experts and we've done an investigation," Fiske said. "We believe that a Bureau of Land Management Jeep, driven by a Bureau of Land Management officer, started the fire in the desert and it burned 7,000 acres -- the equivalent of 11 square miles."

Fiske said the experts believe the person driving the Jeep didn't notice.

He has filed a claim against the BLM on behalf of Woodworth, the Al Bahr Shrine Camp and nearly 100 other cabin owners.

"Every cabin was filled with memories and every cabin is gone," said Don Wierman of the Al Bahr Shrine camp.

As the official cause hasn't yet been identified, no one can rebuild yet, and it upsets Woodworth and the others who lost cabins.

"The kids made the handprint turkeys and we had them covering the walls," Halliday said.

Her great-grandfather, grandfather and father were all Shriners. The cabin at the Al Bahr Shrine Camp was passed down through the generations.

Fiske said he doesn't want to file a lawsuit, but he will if the BLM doesn't answer the claim filed.

The BLM did not return Team 10's calls and emails, and Cal Fire would not tell Team 10 why the report couldn't be released.

While everyone waits for someone to step up and take responsibility, Halliday said she is devastated.

"Those were the fondest memories and was so looking forward to bringing a new generation up there," she said.

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