Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fire Story

As everyone knows, San Diego was consumed by several spectacular wildfires over the past few days. Here is our story.

Sunday afternoon

I had read on the internet about a fire starting in Ramona but didn't give it much thought. We left for the kids piano recital in Del Mar. In the space of just a few miles, the air got very thick and smoky. The recital was canceled due the the air so we went to George's beach to walk the dog. The air there was getting bad and in fact you could see the smoke cloud starting to creep northward. Went to bed without any concern.

Monday morning

I woke up as usual and headed to the office before dawn. It was smelly but I still wasn't concerned.

Monday 1000

Jyoti calls and says the air is getting very bad. I have been watching the news all morning and now it seems the Witch Fire has started to head west. Jyoti says a neighbor got a voluntary evacuation call, but we never receive one.

Monday 1100

Jyoti packs the car and kids and heads up to my parents in Orange County (they are well away from the fires there).

Monday 1200

I decided to leave work and head up to OC as well. I first stop by the house to see what is going on. The air is almost unbearable with ash and smoke.

Monday night

I spend most of the evening checking the news for information. The following are my best resources:

Tuesday morning

Things got pretty tense as the Witch Fire headed westward into the Rancho Santa Fe. If you look at the map, we live a couple miles directly west of the Bridges community. The fire looked like it would wipe out a few estates in RSF and Olivenhain and head for us. Later reports said that the fire would have most likely follow Escondido Creek to the ocean. That is about a half mile from our house. Since our area is more dense than the areas to the east, I doubted that the fire would actually get to our neighborhood.

Tuesday afternoon

The wind died down and with it, the fire's advance. The flames headed back eastward towards Del Dios. A coworker of my mom's who lives in Encinitas and stayed the entire time, says the air is already getting better.

Tuesday night

The decision is made for me to go back tomorrow morning and see how things are. If they look ok, then the family will come down as well.

Wednesday morning

I got up early anticipating getting back home. My dad, says the 5 has been closed due to fires in Camp Pendleton. I wait until the freeway is open again and cruise the near-empty highways to home. The house is dusty but looks fine. Off to the office for a few hours work.

I was here during the 2003 fires and it is interesting to compare this event to that.

  • Reverse 911 - although we didn't get a call, this great idea undoubtedly saved lives

  • Evacuations - it seems that people evacuated sooner and in greater numbers; this might be due to the memories of 2003

  • Air Support - the criticism of air support has already started, just like in 2003. I know the high winds prevented some flights on the first couple days, but it still seems that there is still some work to do to get Federal/Military assets to the scene

  • Big Government - useless as usual. Didn't anyone care that FEMA had arrived? Most of the relief effort was already organized and rolling within hours. Is anyone else sick of those worthless interviews with governors, senators and presidents?

  • Firefighters - continue to amaze me in their ability to handle multiple huge fires at the same time; our friend is a Cal Fire fighter and we know he was in the Ramona area but we will have to wait for details

I wonder if the Natural History Museum will update their Cedar Fire exhibit?

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