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Daily Pilot

Safe haven for BMX riders stays safe from fire

Blaze that burned through Talbert Regional Park on Friday does not cause damage to Sheep Hills, whose reputation stretches across the world among dirt-jumping riders.

By Jeremiah Dobruck

4:10 PM PDT, May 10, 2014

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A mecca for BMX riders narrowly avoided taking any significant damage from a fire that burned 3 to 5 acres of brush in Talbert Regional Park this week.

Saturday morning, a day after the blaze, Peter Harvey grabbed a shovel at Sheep Hills, which is tucked in the park near the border of Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach.

He cleared water away from a set of dirt jumps about 15 yards from charred bushes, where a small group of firefighters were still mopping up from Friday's blaze.

"We just want to hit the jumps," said Harvey, who is a Northern California resident in town for work. He couldn't pass up the chance to ride the famous course.

Sheep Hills is a legend for BMX enthusiasts. Its ramps and tight turns take up about the area of a baseball field, but its reputation stretches across the world among dirt-jumping riders.

"It's my favorite place to ride," said Brandon Paqua from Anaheim.

Some BMX riders who live nearby had spread the word Friday that Sheep Hills could be in danger while the fire was burning for about two and a half hours.

"It was all over Instagram," said Harvey.

The damage could have been much worse. Water in ruts, where heavy fire equipment had rolled through, blocked the path down from one jump's landing.

"The landing of that, you can't hit because you'd hit the mud," Paqua said, pointing to a berm about 5 feet tall.

But even if Sheep Hills had been charred, riders there this weekend were confident it would have endured. Water dropped from Orange County Fire Authority helicopters struck them as more of a threat than the flames.

"I've never seen a dirt ramp burn," said Bradley Turrietta, a Buena Park rider who was digging a shovel into the mud.