An injured border-crosser left behind by a group on Otay Mountain in San Diego County lit a signal fire for help that burned into the brush on Saturday, authorities said.
He was taken to a hospital while aircraft and firefighters on the ground doused the blaze, which charred about one-third of an acre off Minnewawa Truck Trail, an official with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention said.
The 25-year-old Mexican citizen told authorities that he was part of a group that crossed into the United States illegally. He was left behind after he injured his ankle, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Eduardo Olmos said.
Olmos was not sure when the group entered the U.S., but he said it’s common for foot guides to stop for a night or two on the mountain to try to elude authorities.
He said Cal Fire took custody of the man and then transferred him to the Border Patrol. When the man is released from the hospital, agents will take him to a Border Patrol station and process him for immediate removal from the U.S., Olmos said.
People in the area of Otay Lakes Road, near Pio Pico RV Resort and Campground, called 911 about 11:20 a.m. to report smelling smoke.
Two air tankers and two helicopters were sent, along with several fire rigs, Cal Fire Capt. Issac Sanchez said. It took about an hour to stop the blaze from spreading, he said.
Cal Fire Battalion Chief Preston Fouts told OnScene TV a “traveler” who was injured set the fire as a signal to get help. One firefighter suffered an ankle injury, Fouts said.
Video showed a Cal Fire investigator helping a handcuffed man out of a Cal Fire pickup before medics placed him in an ambulance.