Personal Fire Stories

Chris and I had been finding it so difficult to really understand the intensity of the Southern California fires – even though we have so many connections to San Diego. The extent of the destruction and the impact it has on so many people is just surreal. I imagine you feel the same way.

It was when we started receiving e-mails from friends in San Diego that we began to feel connected to their experience. We want to share them with you – inpart to help you understand what it is like to live through this unbelievable fire and also because we’ve heard from so many that every e-mail and coorespondance, no matter how general, means SO MUCH. So here are their stories:

Hello Friends and Family,

I pray that this email finds each of you in good health and spirits. I wanted to say thank you for the phone calls, text messages and emails. I also wanted to send out a quick update on the wild fires that are sweeping thru San Diego County.

On Sunday 10/21 the fires started in Malibu (Los Angeles County) and Julian (San Diego County). The fire in Julian was named Witch Creek, because that were it started. The Santa Ana winds (wind blows from the East and brings the hot desert air over the mountains) coupled with the drought conditions (It never rains in Southern California – Tony, Tone, Toni) quickly spreaded the fires into 8 uncontrollable wild fires all over the county.

By the time we woke up on Monday morning the fires were so enormous that a mandatory evacuation for our neighborhood (Rancho Penasquitos), and surrounding neighborhoods (Rancho Bernardo and Poway to name a couple), had been put in place. We looked outside to see a bright orange sky, ashes falling like snow, and our neighbors throwing clothes, food and their kids in their cars and getting the hell out of dodge.

We quickly followed suit and evacuated to one of Erica’s sorority sister’s house in the City of Chula Vista (a smaller city in SD County, near the Mexican Border). We stayed there until 1:30 am on Tuesday 10/23, when we were told to evacuate because of the Harris fire that had grown and was threatening the eastern portion of Chula Vista. Once again we packed up and headed out.

We (including the sorority sister and her husband) then stayed with my partner at the law office and his family, until yesterday afternoon. It turned out that they had already had another family from the Poway area staying with them. At 2pm on Tuesday 10/23 the mandatory evacuation was lifted, but a voluntary evacuation and standby was put in place. We were able to return to our home late yesterday afternoon. We stayed the night, but kept our bags and cars packed. If the wind changes we will once again be in the direct line of the fire.

The fires are now threatening the communication system on Mount Miguel and the Mayor, County Supervisor, Fire Chief, Police Chief, etc. has requested that San Diegans limit the use of cell phones, stay home and stay off the roads. There are 1200 National Gaurdspersons assisting with the fire and the protection of the communities that have been destroyed by the fires.

The Mexican Government is has sent fire personnel and medical teams to assist with the fires and the evacuees. Our electrical power grid is at full capacity and rolling blackouts started on Monday. The Mexican Government has redirected power to our system to help avoid a total blackout. The city has requested that citizens not use AC, dish washers, washing machines, dryers, etc.

The pictures and images that you see on television are nothing compared to the real life drama that is gripping this region. People are losing everything but GOD is still with us and we will get thru. Please continue to keep me and my family (Erica, Ashley and Jacob), as well as those families that are still in shelters (there but for the Grace of God go I), in your prayers.

The sky is full of soot and gray in color. The air quality is extremely poor and smells like a fire place. I will send out another email in a couple of days. Take Care and God Bless,

Mark

PS – Please also pray for the men and women who are fighting the fires and keeping the rest of us safe.

PSS – Please pray for the Redskins to beat the Patriots on Sunday

and:

Hello office crew! Stephanie wrote to ask how things were going, and I thought I’d write to tell you all what’s happening…

It’s unbelievably strange. Everything is gone. We grew up- our whole lives in that house that my dad built. We were there as children to watch it’s walls go up, to lay the stone pathways and plant the orchards that ran everywhere along its many acres. It’s the second time we’ve lost everything we own. All of the memories…the libraries of children’s books!!! And it’s been the most horribly trying last three years for our family. Regardless of these truths- I just feel so incredibly grateful. The central hub of our family has moved to my big brother’s little apartment in the city. But amazingly- it feels so similar in spirit to the huge, beautiful home on a mountain-top. I have such a blessed life with these incredible people. There is nowhere I’ve encountered in what I’ve seen of the world- that this level of love exists. THIS is what it’s about. This is what matters.
As everyone in our community calls with news of homes lost, we get twenty times more calls of people begging to help, to do or give anything they can.
We go tomorrow to sift through the ashes. I know that flattened-without the structure of the house- there will be a similarity to one of my first memories as a child-
The memory of “The Land”- the site where our old house burned down, the place where Dad was burned in the first fire and almost died- his body is still blanketed with those scars. I remember watching my mom cry- looking out over that property, as the walls of her new house were raised. I know it will look the same now, twenty-five years later. I know there will be tears again, but I know that we’ll still all be together, safe, loving, still the indomitable family- strong as ever.

I would do anything to protect them. But I know, all they need is for me to be here.
So thank you for allowing me to. It is so important, and so, so appreciated.

In the mean-time, I’m working here on my laptop, and including in the present…RECRUITING plans for the future!
So thank you again- from me and the whole fam!
See you very very soon-
Marie

We love you all in San Diego! We are praying for you!

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