A brush fire that has burned at least 822 acres was started by two illegal immigrants who were in distress, according to Cal Fire officials.
“They called C4, which is Mexico’s emergency dispatch system and advised them that they had been lost for two days, were stranded, dehydrated, and were going to light a signal fire to attempt to get some help,” said Cal Fire spokesperson Roxanne Provaznik.
Border Patrol agents worked with Cal Fire to look for the individuals, but were unsuccessful.
“There was evidence near the area of origin, of illegal aliens traveling through that area, which supports this report,” said Provaznik.
A spokesperson from Cal Fire said it's frustrating to know the blaze could have been prevented, but now they're just focused on putting it out.
“We have a significant amount of manpower that was put towards this fire and they have done a great job. Were they thinking of this when they were concerned with their lives? probably not,” said Tom Piranio.
The fire was sparked early on Thursday afternoon between Campo and Potrero. It is 65 percent contained.
More than 1,300 firefighters were fighting the fire. Ten aircraft were also helping battle the blaze, officials said, including a new helo-tanker.
The San Diego Gas & Electric aircraft known as the Sunbird was used for the first time in the county on Friday. The tanker is capable of dropping 2,500 gallons of water at a time. It could be seen on Friday scooping up water from a pond located on private property in Potrero, then dropping its load nearby on the fire.
Meanwhile, back at the command center at a nearby park, a high-tech Internet-based system was being tested to help map the fire and monitor crews. The system was created by MIT engineers, who monitored the fire back in Boston. Field crews are fitted with GPS devices, and with a click of a mouse, officials were able to locate and direct crews.
The system was also used to help map the exact location of the fire.
"It's looking better, but we still don't want to let our guard down," Battalion Chief Ray Chaney said Friday afternoon. "We still have some fire out there that poses a threat, so we're being very aggressive in the way we treat this fire. Hopefully by tonight, we'll feel a lot more comfortable. But we're not there yet."
Full containment is expected Sunday.
While no structures are threatened by the Cowboy Fire, two firefighters suffered minor injuries.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.