David Burton endures two major annoyances on his land overlooking Interstate 8 in the Granite Hills area — fires searing his slope and people stealing his GOP-boosting signs.
He counts 19 blazes in his 22 years leasing the land south of the East County freeway between Los Coches Road and Greenfield Drive.
But also: “I had 11 four-by-eight Trump signs stolen.”
In a rush-hour blaze Wednesday that backed up eastbound cars five miles, 80-90 firefighters from Cal Fire and Lakeside, Santee, Heartland and San Miguel fire agencies controlled a 30-acre brush fire surrounding Burton’s home.
It spread dangerously close to homes before fire crews got the upper hand.
The blaze erupted about 3:30 p.m. near the eastbound lanes of I-8, west of Los Coches Road. The eastward-spreading flames moved up grassy slopes to within a few hundred feet of houses along Carob Tree and Lotus lanes as crews battled the blaze by ground and aboard firefighting aircraft, including water-dropping helicopters, said Thomas Shoots, a fire captain with the state agency.
Deputies advised residents of those homes to clear out as a precaution, said sheriff’s Lt. Mark Moreno.
Firefighters had the spread of the blaze halted shortly before 5 p.m., Shoots said. They remained in the area into the evening, dousing hot spots and creating fire breaks.
Cause of the fire was under investigation.
But longtime resident Burton had a pretty good idea.
It was probably a catalytic converter, he said. He blamed the same exhaust emission control device for a Dec. 8 fire.
A Trump sign was charred, but two others survived — touting Darrell Issa for Congress and Joel Anderson for county supervisor.
“This is the 50th Congressional District and Issa’s our congressman,” Burton said. “So I support Darrell Issa. I support Joel Anderson. … I saw him on Monday night.”
Deadlines on removing campaign signage on rights-of-ways don’t apply to his slope, he noted.
“This is private property,” said the 67-year-old. “It’s my choice. I have civil rights. We have a Constitution in this country, and I’ve read that Constitution a number of times.”
He also posted a “Stop the Steal” sign near the Issa/Anderson banners. It stayed up until at least mid-January — a week after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Someone stole it, Burton said.
Burton is an avid Donald Trump supporter, calling him “the best president we’ve had in our lifetime. And I believe — Lord willing — that he will be our next president in 2024.”
An East County Tea Party leader for years, Burton says he’s starting a new project.
“It’s We the People Support Law Enforcement,” he said. “Everybody’s going to be given a blue ribbon to tie around their antenna, mirror or door handle. So that law enforcement can see that we the people support law enforcement.”
The program had a soft launch last week, he said, with a “hard kickoff” June 12.
“It’s the left that doesn’t support law enforcement because they want to get away with crime,” Burton said, watching traffic and news crews from the top of his slope.
He said the effort is in response to what he sees as poor treatment of law enforcement across the country. He blames “the higher echelons of the Democratic Socialist Party.”
But Wednesday, he also reserved ire for firefighters who used bolt cutters to open the fence across his dirt road off Bermuda Lane.
They cut his expensive locks, he said, instead of the chain.
— City News Service contributed to this report.