By Regina Elling
A small blaze, Cal Fire reports was sparked by unsafe equipment use, began on Thursday, May 24, and ended as a wildfire with a price tag of $4 million and a burn area of 5,321 acres.
The fire, called the Banner Fire, began at about 2:15 p.m. east of Julian off Banner Grade south of Highway 78 in the Shelter Valley area. Originally estimated at about 20 acres, strong winds helped spread the fire.
By daybreak on Friday, May 25, the fire had expanded to about 2,500 acres.
Cal Fire reported no homes were lost and there were no serious injuries, but there were four minor injuries, evacuations and road closures.
About 100 Shelter Valley residents were evacuated for several hours on May 24, but they were allowed to return home by nightfall. The next day, about 50 people were evacuated from the Stagecoach Trails RV Park and Resort, but also returned later that evening. County Route S-2 and SR-78 were closed in the fire area.
Cal Fire fought the blazes with ground crews, air tankers, and water dropping helicopters. The fire was considered 100 percent contained by May 29, Cal Fire reported.