Friday, August 22, 2008
Cedar Fire revisited
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Almost 5 years ago, the Cedar Fire ripped through San Diego County. I didn't know where Annamarie and the kids were, just that they had been evacuated. Chief Clayton of CDF kept saying the entire town of Lake Cuyamaca was incinerated. I was trying to concentrate on the firefighting operations in Scripps Ranch---Perry, Scott and I had assumed Branch IV dispatch when they decentralized dispatch, and it was going so smoothly the Chiefs just kept us there. We all had time on the actual fireline too.... After 96 hours, they turned me loose to go look for my family. After driving all over Southern California, I found them in a little hotel in Mission Valley. The news kept showing Chief Clayton saying Lake Cuyamaca was completely levelled. Annamarie would wake me up every now and then and ask, 'Do you think my wedding dress made it?' or 'Do you think any of our pictures survived?' I told her over and over to accept that everything we owned was in the two cars outside the hotel door.
Captain Visser, whom I had allowed to turkey hunt on my land while I was building, was up at Cuyamaca dooing some Air Ops Branch Director work. He contacted me at 3:30 AM and said, "You are without a doubt the luckiest sonofabitch I ever met". He told me both my houses were just fine, all the houses between my houses were burned up, and there was still lots of fire and I needed to get up there right away.
So, of course, I grabbed Byron. Byron, of course, dropped everything and went. Dropped A.M. and the kids off at the Fiore's (who housed us for a few weeks) and Dr. Joe came with Byron and me.
We drove through miles of moonscape to get to our houses.
This is what we found when we got there----my front yard on fire. Everything burnt around the cabin. Most houses (106 out of 124) burnt to the foundations. Byron set up the shortwave and was the only communication off the hill. The three of us spent the next 48 hours scratching fireline around the remaining houses, taking water from jacuzzis and mixing it with dishsoap to splash out hot spots, and taking all perishable foods out of houses. We set up a night watch in case wind changed directions. Late one night, a thick, thick (unpredicted) fog bank rolled in and soaked everything.
That was when we slept.