Friday, October 26, 2007

Flash Back Friday ..... To Sunday October 21, the day of the Witch Fires

Flash Back Friday
Today is the day that I would usually print a recipe that our children would remember from their childhood and was judged as a favorite by them. Instead I will recap the week of the Rancho Bernardo Witch Fire.
Sunday mid-afternoon I came out of a grocery store to the sight and smell of smoke with people scurrying to return home. I drove the three miles to our home and was surprised at the increased amount of smoke in that short time. Santa Anna winds were blowing about 40 or 50 mph. Santa Anna winds blow non stop day and night when they arrive in the Fall.
I photographed the canyon to the rear of our home which was a good contrast for measuring the amount of smoke. When my husband returned he was surprised to see the amount of smoke rolling into the canyon area. We learned a transformer was knocked off of a pole in the town of Ramona which is about eight miles northeast of our Rancho Bernardo home and started the fire.
We had dinner plans with a cousin for Sunday evening as Don had been invited by cousin Ed to travel with their Travel Club. As we were preparing to leave for Menefee, Don called my attention to the increased amount of smoke coming from the canyon direction. I photographed the canyon area again as it was becoming heavy and blocking the sun.
We left for our drive to Menefee which was appoximaterly 45 or 50 miles to the North. As we drove up the I-15 we caught a glimpse of the line of fire of the Witch fire. I said to my husband, if the fire is not contained and climbs that hill it will be in the canyon below our home.
The Fire Department in our area fights these brush fires often and are a very capable group of professionals. The high winds made the difference.
Early Monday morning our daughter Anne called to check that we were safe because we had mandatory evacuation of the area. She and family were at a hotel in Mission Beach. We immediately turned on the TV and saw the horrifying pictures of the beautiful area we chose to retire just three years prior.
For the four following days we had the fire news on the TV. God bless the Internet. We were able to keep friends updated and that we were safe.
We had learned on Tuesday that our house was still standing. What we had not learned was how close we came to being a casualty of this fire.
Returning home was like a science fiction movie. Seeing the remnants of homes that the Witch had not spared were daunting to say the least on the drive back to Rancho Bernardo.
When we arrived home we saw ash piled everywhere. Our front door was blocked by what ended up being five large wastebaskets of ash. Once inside the house, the smell of smoke was very pronounced. The force of the wind blew ash in under the three sets of double doors across the back of the house.
We immediately went outside to look over the canyon. We saw the house below us in a pile of rubble. The landscaping on the hillsides below was randomly burned. The beautiful homes on the southern canyon wall had randomly taken a hit. What were such beautiful mansions were now just a pile of rubble. Five homes remained.
We took a walk around the block to see the devastation. We thought the area looked more like Baghdad than California. It is amazing how the fire arbitrarily selects a home and leaves one very close by unaffected. We returned home and began our clean-up. We thank God we were spared. Our hearts go out to the many families who lost their earthly possessions and comfort zone. We know homes and vegetation will soon cover the scars left behind by the witch.

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