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Homeless Man Attempting To Heat Coffee With Blow Torch Ignites Brush Fire In Lake Elsinore

The fire was reported shortly before 3 p.m.

UPDATED: A small brush that burned an eighth of an acre Friday in Lake Elsinore was accidentally started by a transient attempting to heat coffee with a propane blow torch, a fire engineer said.

The fire was reported at 2:54 p.m. in the 31600 block of Auto Center Drive in a riverbed homeless encampment across the street from the Travel Inn motel.

Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department engineer Don Camp said the man was attempting to use the torch as a heating device when it started leaking fuel and ignited the blaze in heavy brush.

The man, whose identity has not been released, sustained minor burns but refused treatment, Camp said. He was being detained for questioning by Cal Fire Prevention investigators.

Camp warned that fire conditions are very dangerous this year.

"[The fire] was in heavy fuel so it was putting up some pretty good flames and thick black smoke. We haven't had much rain. It didn't take much ... to get the fire going," he explained.

"California has had a record dry winter, about the fourth driest in state history," he added, explaining that the current vegetation moisture levels are what fire officials normally see toward the end of summer.

Camp said three engines and 10 firefighters were called to Friday's incident, and there were no other injuries reported.

Auto Center Drive was temporarily closed in both directions.

The fire was contained at 3:09 p.m., Camp said. --Daniel Lane contributed to this report.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Click here for a fire reported later Friday afternoon near the Elsinore Naval and Military School.

Local Yokel May 10, 2013 at 11:18 PM
I don't think there's either a 600 block of Auto Center Drive or a Travelodge Motel in Lake Elsinore. There is a Travel Inn motel in the 31600 block of Auto Center Drive.
Steve May 10, 2013 at 11:18 PM
They had no business offering the homeless man medical treatment, he obviously has no medical insurance or ways of paying for it. Are we becoming the "the socialist states" of America? What's next? Communism?
PirateGirl May 10, 2013 at 11:23 PM
A homeless guy with a blow torch? Oh my.
Toni McAllister (Editor) May 10, 2013 at 11:46 PM
You are correct, and the story has been updated. Thank you ...
Becky Honkington May 10, 2013 at 11:48 PM
The field next to the Military Academy at Ortega and Grand is on fire at 4:24 pm.
ROBERT BLACKMEN May 10, 2013 at 11:51 PM
Its was alex or scott...dam bums..
ROBERT BLACKMEN May 10, 2013 at 11:52 PM
?how do bum afford to buy speed..
Jenny D'Aoust May 11, 2013 at 12:05 AM
How about the fire on the west side of the lake ?
AndrewMaria Ream May 11, 2013 at 12:11 AM
Does anyone know why Grand ave is backed up right now???? 5:10pm may 10th
LEMOMMA May 11, 2013 at 12:15 AM
Homeless or not hes human! But agree strange that he had one
BLUESGUITAR777 May 11, 2013 at 12:25 AM
There was a good sized brush fire in the field by the old boys military academy on Grand Ave near the Ortega Hwy off ramp. That's why traffic is backed up. I sent Toni a bunch of pictures.
scott burse May 11, 2013 at 01:13 AM
Not Scott I am not homeless I live in a house and been there for a year better get your facts right before you speak
Reverend Smith May 11, 2013 at 04:38 AM
Not saying if this is the case here, but a very large percentage of wildfires in southern California in the last 20 or so years have been started by illegal immigrants. The one that burned off more than half the San Gabriel mountains a couple of years ago is suspected to have been started by an African immigrant. Several more in the Angeles National Forest were started at areas investigators found were outdoor places of worship of Mexican folk religion - beheaded chicken, talismans etc found strewn about. A fire above Pasadena 15 or 20 years ago was started by a Chinese illegal trying to boil rice. We can't blame these immigrants so much as a government that lets them in and creates a demand for their labor when there are millions of unemployed native-born Americans. These immigrants aren't familiar with our flammable environment. What might not be a problem fire use situation where they just came from, poses a huge fire risk here. Either they need to be educated on this, or they need to be kept out. American employers will just have to bite the bullet and hire American workers and pay them a living wage.
Marjie May 11, 2013 at 07:27 PM
You should be ashamed Reverend Smith ...judge not !
marsha May 11, 2013 at 07:31 PM
Whats wrong with some of you... How dare you judge a person for being homeless...some people just cant help what happens in there life. No.. he shouldnt have had a torch, but when your cold and living outside, you do what it takes to stay warm, Have some compassion for the less fortunate. And yes he should have been treated by the medical team, his life is just as important as yours, with or without insurance....living a good life or being homeless...I pray for all those people who need help and for the ones who are asses...
Ken Mayes May 11, 2013 at 07:53 PM
Not sure where you got your numbers from but in 2011 out of 74,126 wildfire humans started 63,877 (85%) primarily by carelessness. As for the Kinneloa fire Andres Huang is listed as a transient not an illegal and in his statement to police he claimed to have started a campfire to stay warm, no mention of cooking rice.
Alek J Hidell May 12, 2013 at 03:19 AM
each criminal alien and tweeker homeless needs to be rescued from their hell by establishing tented workcamps out in the desert. They can clean up, learn a trade, and more importantly, not be anywhere near normal working folks....
Reverend Smith May 12, 2013 at 03:43 AM
Three newspapers identified Huang as a Chinese immigrant who speaks no english and used to live in South America. He was living in a homeless camp where most of those living there probably knew better than to strike a match there during strong winds. But because of Huang's little miscalculation 115 homes were incinerated. Their former occupants became homeless themselves and lost lifetimes of memories and possessions. Huang's presence there was the result of our government's lack of enforcement of our immigration laws and our corporations and and individuals' appitate for cheap labor. It was during the George Bush (41) Administration who, along with his son (43) were lax in their enforcement of immigration laws - probably to benefit corporate interests addicted to cheap labor and not having to supply them benefits. Subsequent Democratic administrations saw a marked increase in immigration enforcement and border security. http://articles.latimes.com/1993-10-31/news/mn-51778_1_county-fire/2 http://www.insidesocal.com/sgvcrime/2009/08/page/2/ http://www.deseretnews.com/article/317719/TRANSIENTS-FIRE-EARNS-HIM-DESTINY-IN-INFAMY.html?pg=all http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1957&dat=19931029&id=eAwxAAAAIBAJ&sjid=eeAFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2659,7393418 http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1665&dat=19931029&id=Gx4aAAAAIBAJ&sjid=QCUEAAAAIBAJ&pg=7024,7612822
Reverend Smith May 12, 2013 at 04:17 AM
See what you say if your home is burned to the ground - whatever their excuse. Talking about "less fortunate". Huang probably would have been just as "less fortunate" in China or South America as in southern California. Difference is 115 people would still have their homes. And he was treated by a med team. And the local fire chief didn't blame Huang. But if Huang hadn't been there, the fire would not have started. Huang got a red carpet of compassion. And in my initial post I did not say to deport all illegal immigrants. I said educate them not to do dumbass things like lite the foothills on fire *OR* deport. But the dumbasses who run this country (particularly the Republicans of late) would rather spend our money killing the less fortunate people living in other countries, not to mention our own young men for nothing but a pile of stinking lies to benefit their corporate paymasters.
Reverend Smith May 12, 2013 at 04:18 AM
No sooner than the cock crows and ye are judging thee.
Truthful May 12, 2013 at 04:22 PM
Marsha is right! Shame on you!
Reverend Smith May 12, 2013 at 06:13 PM
For criticizing both Bush administrations.
Ken Mayes May 12, 2013 at 08:18 PM
Reverend Smith Republicans, come on. It was a Democrat by the name of Lyndon Baines Johnson who eliminated the Bracero Program which supplied many unskilled temporary workers to do jobs nobody wanted to do but needed to be done. It was also a Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt that started this program to replace workers he sent to war. Not saying its all the Democrats fault Republicans are just as guilty. At the end of the day there will always be jobs to be filled by people willing to work for minimum or less than minimum wage as a complementary workforce, not a replacement workforce and the majority of these will be immigrants be they legal or illegal. This situation is not exclusive to the United States.
Reverend Smith May 13, 2013 at 12:20 AM
So you credit LBJ for eliminating one program that encouraged illegal immigration and catered to big agribusiness. OK. And considering the free world's very survival was at steak, you'll forgive FDR for starting what is essentially what congress is eventually going to pass any day now - immigration reform and worker visa programs. And those admitted under those programs were screened, not whoever could outrun la migre. Oh, and don't forget the Republican who started it all - Reagan. He swung open the border gates during the 80's to reward his corporate and agribusiness backers from the years of running for office in California before running for president. There's this article in the Washington Post "Obama is deporting immigrants faster than Bush. Republicans don’t think that’s enough." that sums it up. Republicans complain every time a Democrat takes office that they're not enforcing immigration laws. Then a Republican office takes office and fails entirely to enforce immigration laws, defunds border control measures, and the complainers vanish into thin air. Then, when a Democrat takes office, the complainers of the president's failure to enforce border control suddenly rematerialize. This, despite the fact the new Democrat president enforces border protection and deportations 100 times over what the previous.Republican administration did. Let me know when you get it sorter out sybil.
Reverend Smith May 13, 2013 at 12:21 AM
Here's that article: "Obama is deporting immigrants faster than Bush. Republicans don’t think that’s enough." http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/08/27/obama-is-deporting-more-immigrants-than-bush-republicans-dont-think-thats-enough/
That one guy May 14, 2013 at 02:43 AM
"can't we all get along...?" Besides it wasn't coffee he was heating up, it was a crack pipe pr his medical marijuana
Ken Mayes May 14, 2013 at 02:55 PM
The 1986 Immigration Reform Bill that you blame on Reagan was a bipartisan bill aka the Simpson (R)-Mazzoli (D) Act passed by a House of Representatives controlled by Democrats, a Senate controlled by Republicans. Both parties are one in the same when it comes to passing stupid legislation.

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