Last Sunday night, there was a conversation about the gathering fires in the mountains east of my house. I'd invited neighbors over to watch football that afternoon, neighbors who lost their house in the 2003 Cedar Fire
, which was previously the worst fire in San Diego history.
We could see the orange glow beyond, but nothing had crossed over the top of the mountains at that point. And I was quick to disregard the threat, even though previous experiences back in '93 should have reminded me just how quickly reality can change.
So, I went back to watching 'Desperate Housewives
.' Then I went to bed, thinking the evacuation call wouldn't come.
4.35 A.M. The evacuation call came.
I remember getting up, flicking the lights on in the bedroom and in the hallway and being immediately surprised at the amount of smoke already in the house. That was something I'd never experienced before. Back 14 years ago, and then four years ago, with the Cedar Fire, the evacuation threat had loomed large, but the winds had always shifted and the fires had gone away.
It was different this time. So we packed some stuff and loaded the cars. And it was then, while outside, that I almost got knocked down by the 70 M.P.H. hot, swirling wind, and I felt the heat on my body from the fire that looked as if it was just beyond the slope protecting my cul-de-sac. Ash was raining down on me like snow in the dead of winter. And it was then that I feared for our lives.
I jumped in my car and reversed down the street to check on my sweet 86 year old year old friend. She was already packed and ready to go and I told her of the path to the beach we were taking.
5.20 A.M. Driving west. My buddy Scott and I were calling each other at the same time. He told us to come to his house in Del Mar.
For half the day, an odd mix of parents, friends, significant others and kids watched the unbelievable fire coverage. Most of the city of San Diego was on fire by late morning, and Del Mar and the other coastal areas never before affected by the threat of fire, were all under mandatory evacuations.
It occurred to me around lunch time that the only safe place to be was Downtown, so I called and got a room at the Hotel Solamar
As it all turned out and as weird as this sounds, we had a good time on Monday and Tuesday. I know that a lot of people -- friends of mine, actually -- suffered significant losses on those days, and I don't want to discount their pain by saying that I had fun, but I did.
The Solamar rolled out the red carpet for us, we had a great room, we ate great food, we went out both nights and caroused around and we were joined by my buddies Scott, Brian and Kevin.
A big part of the fact that we could mostly relax was the growing confidence and optimism that our house was intact, after all, we didn't see our address posted on the crawl of the local television broadcasts and the answering machine picked up every time we called.
I got really nervous when somebody sent me a text saying that a street two blocks away from my house was on fire. And when I saw the house in the northern part of our neighborhood burning, along with four others on CBS 8
, I thought the prevailing winds had surely carried to fire to my house.
Thankfully, it didn't destroy my current house. But it did destroy my old neighborhood and my old house, the house my parents built in 1985. The house I lived in for 17 years.
I'm digressing...so I'll keep it short. Thank you EVERYONE for calling and writing and for being concerned. The house is fine. Everyone's okay. And I'm just so glad to be home.
Much has been said about governmental response to the multiple San Diego-area fires and I can tell you that San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and California Governor Arnold Schwarzennegger have both done incredible jobs. And President Bush
was here today touring the burn areas.
There have been some bureaucratic snafus, like the California Department of Forestry, also known as Cal-Fire
, refusing to allow military planes in the air to fight the fires without fire spotters aboard. This type of stupid, illogical, Liberal feudal dispute put lives on the line and delayed important progress in halting the destruction. And while Republicans Issa, Hunter and Bilbray fixed the problem......what were Democrats doing
? They were complaining about Bush's visit
and trying, without much success, to compare the fire to Hurricane Katrina
, which was funny because...
...it so wasn't anything like Katrina. The local and state government was prepared for the disaster. Oh, and by the way, the local and state responses had nothing whatsoever to do with the federal government, or FEMA or George Bush.