On Mount San Jacinto, Douglas fir and ponderosa pine trees once stretched into the blue skies. Below, where manzanita and chapparal used to blanket the hills and canyons, now stands patches of frail, dead trees encrusted with charred, black bark.
It’s been a year since nine small fires set by an arsonist equipped with only a barbecue lighter and a can of WD-40 coalesced into a fire U.S. Forest Service Commander Matt Ahearn said firefighters immediately knew would be difficult to contain.
On July 25, 2018, the Cranston Fire tore through swaths of the San Bernardino National Forest and Mount San Jacinto State Park. Its flames roared up the mountain, jumping highways, spewing black smoke and growing so large and hot the fire created its own weather system. The heat from the blazes mixed with moisture and smoke plumes to form pyrocumulonimbus lightning clouds — the “fire breathing dragon of clouds.”
The fire ultimately forced more than 7,000 area residents to evacuate using two narrow roads leading out of Idyllwild, Pine Cove and Mountain Center. – The Desert Sun