Ever the entertainer, Danny “Buffalo Chip” Alvarez, bull rider and rodeo clown in the Lakeside Rodeo, recently took his enthusiasm for fun to Alpine. There he installed a water slide on a hillside adjacent to the north side of Willows Road east of the Viejas Casino.
On Tuesday, July 3, his 21- year-old son Wyatt, now a bull rider, and two of his friends began enjoying a different kind of ride. The family of one of the friends owns the property.
To construct the slide, the elder Alvarez, 68 and a Lakeside resident, laid ordinary floor cover carpeting down a strip of several hundred feet. On top of that, he placed the versatile construction sealer Visqueen, a polyethylene plastic sheeting that becomes slippery when wet. To hold everything in place, he used duct tape, attaching the Visqueen at intervals to a series of sandbags thrown down at the side of the slide all the way to the bottom.
With a backhoe, Alvarez dug a hole at the lower end of the slide and lined it, too, with the Visqueen, finally filling the hole with 1000 gallons of water.
Wyatt Alvarez and his friends, then began. “I was able to catch a few seconds of the fun on a cellphone video,” Wyatt’s father tells me.
Two days later, on Thursday, July 6 at 11:15 a.m., say Cleveland National Forest personnel, a fire ignited south of the intersection of Willows Road and the Kumeyaay Highway. It began spreading quickly west, in the direction of the new water slide.
I was unable to reach the property’s owners but, through Danny Alvarez, I learned that they were required to evacuate as the fire approached. Coming from the south, the West Fire had reached the point across Willows Road from the slide. Firefighters, however, were able to prevent the flames from jumping across.
So the water slide was saved? “Not entirely,” says Alvarez. By Saturday, people were allowed back into the area, and much of the Visqueen was seen to be withered. The heat from across the road must have been too intense.
“My son is likely to go back out,” says Alvarez. “I probably won’t.” But he’s announced his rodeo retirement a number of times, only to turn up in the ring again.