Thursday, October 25, 2007

San Diego Fires as seen from 92139 (day 1)

Monday morning I am awakened at 5:45 by a text message from my priest in Rancho Bernardo. He was alerting everyone that they were being immediately evacuated due to the fires rapidly approaching. I get on the computer and turn on the radio. San Diego County is on fire in about 6 different places.

At about 7am, I notice the neighbors garage door is open, and go over to get their take on things. They were here for the fires of 2003; we didn't move here till January 2004. I have no idea what people do in case of fire. If the first thing they do is panic, I figure at least I am doing it in the right order.

From my neighbor Mory's back porch, we look southward into Bonita and see clear blue sky above, but a foreboding grey haze closer to ground-level. The wind is tremendous, as you can see the eucalyptus leaves in the lower right part of the photo.

Looking to the west, we could just barely make out the puff of white smoke behind the mountain.

On my own, I would not have noticed these things, but when Mory points them out, they are easy to see. She speaks about the fire so calmly; she is pretty confident that the fires will not reach us. I take comfort in her calm self-possession.

We are strategically located on a hill, with the Sweetwater Reservoir to the southeast, and the 54 acting as an effective firebreak. I am still rattled, but comforted. So I do what I usually do when I can't concentrate: I go for coffee.

At Donny's Cafe, Donny is joking with Angel and Andreas. They seem completely unconcerned with the fire burning to the east.

"So... what do you guys think? You think we'll need to evacuate?" I ask timorously.

"Us? Naaaww. That fire will have to go through a LOT of territory to pose a threat to us," Angel tells me.

"You were here for the last one in 2003?" I ask.

"Yeah. We'll be fine," he assures me. Andreas nods in agreement.

Well, they've been here and done this. I take a deep breath and decide that maybe the panicking was a bit premature just yet. I return home and continue listening to the radio and following the developments on the Internet.

I look at my house from across the street in Mory's front yard. Besides the strong winds blowing from the east, I now notice the line of grey low on the horizon. Smoke from the fires to the north.

Looking further to the south, I now notice the smoke traveling westward from further inland.

There are fires to the north, south, and east of me. I'm not technically "surrounded" by fires, only because I'm flanked to the west by the Pacific Ocean.

By 1pm, over 250,000 people are evacuated around the county. The dew point where I am is about 2%.

I begin cleaning up, in case we need to take in evacuees. Before the end of the day, I'll be packing myself, anticipating the call I expect we will get at 2 am telling us we have about 15 minutes to get out. I hate surprises, and I figure if I prepare myself for it, the impact will not be as great.

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