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Cal Fire's Investigation of the Eagle Fire Continues

As Cal Fire researches the cause of the blaze, a blogger takes a photo of the destroyed Eagle Rock guard shack.

Cal Fire continues to investigate the cause of the which erupted Thursday night on Los Coyotes Indian Reservation near Warner Springs.

On Friday morning, authorities reported that an "out building" had been consumed in the blaze.

The building was owned by ERTC, a private company formerly known as Eagle Rock Training Center. A consultant for ERTC, Brian Bonfiglio, told Patch on Friday that the building was a guard shack on land the company leases from the tribe to provide open space for military training.

Bonfiglio was the founder of Eagle Rock. According to tribal Police Chief David Sossaman, Bonfiglio was also the former vice president of Blackwater Worldwide, now known as Xe Services, which provides private military security services in Iraq and other countries. Xe has a classroom training location in San Diego. On the Xe website, it states that, "Outside ranges will be utilized for non-military/law enforcement training as required."

According to Sossaman, Blackwater was trying to negotiate the use of land on the reservation two or three years ago but no deal was made.

But Sossaman told Patch that Blackwater "isn't even allowed up here now" because the negotiations with the tribe fell through.

Blackwater's operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have resulted in investigations and charges concerning accusations of murder and bribery. The company was started by Navy Seals in 1998. 

"We're not affiliated with Blackwater or Xe," Bonfiglio said. "And we're not a training facility. We employ no instructors, just ground crew."

Sean Roach is reported to be the chief executive officer of Eagle Rock, or ERTC. Bonfiglio has given Patch contact information to Roach, he said.

To learn more about the reported history of the use of the land, click here to read an article published in The San Diego Union-Tribune in April.

The use of the property has been controversial among Warner Springs residents who complained months ago of the potential fire risk of having ammunition used in a dry brush area, as reported in media.

Click here to see a video tour of the facility done in May by Channel 8 TV.

Bonfiglio said the land is used by military and other government entities if they are unable to find available locations for training exercises.

Sossaman said the training is done several miles east of Los Coyotes Campground, "back in there."

Bonfiglio said the guard shack was not staffed on Thursday night and Sossaman said there was no training conducted there that evening. Sossaman did say, however, that there had been a fire up there several months ago during training.

When a Patch reporter visited the reservation Friday morning, there was a , which leads up the hill from Warner Springs into the leased area on the reservation. The sign was just east of the Los Coyotes Campground, which is reported to be the only area on the reservation that is made open to the public.

The attached photograph shows the remains of the guard shack, surrounded by red tape. It was submitted to Patch by a Vista blogger, Anthony Carrasco, who visited the site on Sunday.

Sossaman described the guard shack site to Patch by phone Tuesday and confirmed that the photo is accurate.

He said the campground on the reservation remains closed while Cal Fire investigates the cause of the blaze which had ravaged 13,500 acres between Warner Springs and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park as of Tuesday night.

The cost of the effort to suppress the fire was estimated at $6.5 million, Cal Fire reported Tuesday.

Los Coyotes Indian Reservation is San Diego county's largest Native American reservation, encompassing 25,000 acres of federally recognized sovereign land, according to the tribe's website.

Update Wednesday: Mr. Bonfiglio told Patch Wednesday morning that he was not the former vice president of Blackwater but that he had been in charge of the company's west coast operations. A 2008 Union-Tribune article referred to him at the time as "a vice president in San Diego."  Mr. Bonfiglio declined to comment on the fire, the lease or Blackwater, citing the ongoing investigation of the fire.

alexa July 27, 2011 at 02:46 AM
Surely officials know by now what the source of the fire was. Wondering if the truth will ever be revealed, considering the controversial context--a publicly-accessed picnic ground on an Indian reservation and the numerous issues surrounding the Eagle Rock training ground inside the reservation run by former Blackwater personnel, with both reservation officials and Bonfigio denying the connection. Thanks again, Julie, for great info. Hope you continue to follow up on this aspect of the fire--what, exactly, is responsible for its origins.
Julie Pendray July 27, 2011 at 04:51 AM
Eagle Fire update: 13,700 acres & 45% containment as of 7:30 pm Tuesday.
Melisa Belmontes July 27, 2011 at 12:59 PM
What is the up date on the fire it's wed 7-27-11
Julie Pendray July 27, 2011 at 04:23 PM
Correction this morning: Blackwater was trying to negotiate use of the land two or three years ago, David Sossaman clarified this morning, not several months ago as I initially stated in the story.
gidonsinger July 27, 2011 at 05:47 PM
I think the investigation is being covered up by the union tribune. It seems reasonable to think that Blackwater/Xe/ERTC or whatever moniker Prince/Bonifiglio are using, might be responsible for this devastating fire. They caused a smaller fire a few months back. I also love how its all about structures and people threatened by the fire. What about the pristine terra?
ANNE Gabriel July 27, 2011 at 10:42 PM
Puhleeze...there is something entirely TOO fishy about no official pre-liminary cause of the blaze. Blackwater, Ze Corp. Mr. Bonfiglio, they're all in it for the cash and control...and when has S. D. ever NOT been into cash and control? Why haven't the tribal leaders made some official statement? Are they still involved with back door negotiations somehow? Someone should pay for this negligence, not me and my fellow taxpayers, certainly. Please keep up the reporting on this mess, Julie. Anne Gabriel
Alexa July 28, 2011 at 03:49 AM
We the people have a right to be informed about the cause of the fire. CALFire knows. We need to know. Am I the only one who wants to know?
Alexa July 28, 2011 at 03:02 PM
Cause finally announced. Arson.
Julie Pendray July 28, 2011 at 05:20 PM
Rest assured you were not alone Alexa in wanting to hear a cause announced. Thank you very much to Patch blogger Anthony Carrasco who posted the announcement while I was tied up.

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