We moved to San Diego County almost twelve years ago (2002). In the Fall of 2003, we got our first taste of wild fires. Wow. Smoke and ash filled the air. The anxiety level was through the roof, and this was pre-social media. I was pregnant with our youngest son, and I was working for an insurance company in homeowners’ claims. Nice, right? Work was insanely busy, even though we were not in the large loss side of things. Ever since that fire, my nerves amp up whenever the Santa Ana winds blow.
I was flying back from a conference in Washington D.C. in October, 2007. As we were starting our descent into San Diego, the pilot came over the PA and told the people on the right side of the plane they could see the smoke from the San Bernardino/LA fires if they looked out the window. I was on the left side of the plane, but I saw flames out my window. I knew it wasn’t good. After we taxied to the gate, and I was exiting the plane, I could feel the heat and smell the smoke. Memories of 2003 surfaced. As I drove north on the 15 freeway, winds were blowing my big Expedition across lanes. It was bad. I knew it was bad. I needed desperately to get home. Turns out, I was lucky our plane arrived early. They closed the freeway not 30 minutes after I drove through. I got home to find my in-laws, and aunt and uncle, along with their pets. They had been evacuated. We watched the news through the night. More fires sparked. We seemed surrounded. The kids were 7, 6, and 3. Rumors soared…at one point, we thought my in-laws had lost their house. It was a few hours before we found out it had survived. School was cancelled. Smoke and ash once again filled the air as the hot winds blew. Big Man still remembers those anxious days. He hates it when fires break out. He gets extremely worried. We received the pre-evacuation reverse phone call, and we loaded up the car with portraits, photo albums, the computers, necessary personal papers, and my grandmother’s silver. There wasn’t much sleep for a few days. Thousands of homes were lost. Lives were lost. The fire definitely seemed to win. Two friends lost their homes completely.
When this week started, we knew it could be bad. Very high temps, very low humidity, and those Santa Ana winds. I hate those winds. Then the Bernardo fire started. Blessedly, no homes and no lives were lost. Much has been learned, and so many resources allocated for these fires since 2007. Yesterday was still insane as fire after fire started….Carlsbad, Camp Pendleton, Fallbrook, Bonsall, South Escondido, San Marcos, El Cajon, Scripps Ranch…..one after the other. I watched anxiously from the back patio as smoke could be seen to the South, Northwest, and due West. Friends and family from across the country started checking in. Big Man texted me to ask if I were keeping an eye on the fires, and if they were close. I wanted my babies home. The dance studio emailed to say classes were cancelled. I had the TV on, and the news never left coverage of the fires. The closest fire was about 7 miles away, just across the freeway from Spouse’s office. We received a call from the school superintendent. Schools were closed for today. Before it got dark, we saw the first DC-10 fly over to drop retardant on the closest fire. It was an amazing sight. Today, things are much calmer. Some homes have been lost (and businesses), but it’s nothing like it was seven years ago. More importantly, no lives have been lost. Massive kudos to the firefighters, first responders, and police officers working these fires.
Usually our fire season is in the Fall. Normally, we have a strong marine layer this time of year (affectionately called May Gray and June Gloom). This heat is out of the ordinary. And those Santa Ana’s….ugh. Pray for those who did lose their homes. Pray for those fighting these fires. This is going to be a long, stressful fire season. For today, with things seemingly under control and the kids home from school, we are taking a breather. We slept in. I’m having a second cup of coffee. We will likely hang by the pool at the neighbor’s house (still supposed to be 103 F here today). And we will pray no more fires start.