Notes from the Southwest Corner – 5

This is later than Thursday, my intended schedule, because we are on our Texas sojourn. The first part of the sojourn was a return to a past home of mine. Earlier, i have posted the introduction to that return. Now Maureen and i are savoring our time with Blythe, Jason, and of course Sam. So parts of this Democrat column written over 15 years ago is timely. Of course, seeing my family is a wonderful time. Yet it is eclipsed when i look at Sam and remember — with my usual technology acumen, i cannot find the photo i meant to include here. i will add later…when i find that photo.

Closure on the San Diego Fires

SAN DIEGO, CA –Thanksgiving will be special out here. Our six-month old grandson Sam is coming. I expect him to captivate the natives here pretty much the same way he captured the folks back in Tennessee in August.

His August trip celebrated his great grandmother’s birthday as well as his first visit to his ancestral home. This will be his inaugural visit to the Southwest corner.

Out here, I normally smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving. It’s a tradition which began with Sam’s Texas great grandfather many years ago. The fire in the smoker will be the first we’ve lit of any kind since the cataclysmic fires a month ago. It has seemed disrespectful to the people who lost 1300 or so homes.

The smoker fire and the Thanksgiving celebration will be a symbolic closure to the tragedy. But the stories of the fires will burn a long time.

After a month, recollections of those fiery days return when the marine layer has brought mist and dew to our neighborhood. When I walk the dog in the early morning, I can smell the acrid aroma of the fire. That smell is something I will not forget.

Since the fires, the news has focused on praise for firefighters, heroism, survival, and neighbors supporting each other.

Now, the drama is picking up.

Early on, news reports indicated the Witch Creek and Rice Canyon fires started from high power electricity lines. These two fires were the most destructive, burning more than 200,000 acres and destroying 1131 homes.

The origin was high winds pushing power lines together, creating severe arcing and igniting the un-cleared brush underneath. Last week, lawsuits were filed against the power utility, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E).

Finger pointing has begun. County, city, and SDG&E officials are blaming each other for not clearing the brush and trees around the power lines.

Yet the ability to not only survive but to recover and flourish is still the biggest discussion around here.

Several families lost their homes in 2003 and again in the October infernos. Their resiliency is incredible. One elderly couple twice struck is considering building their third home underneath the ground, but they are adamant about staying on their property.

Many stories of heroism and support have filled our senses for a month.

One couple in Rancho Bernardo spent the night in the center of their swimming pool as the fires raged around them and destroyed their home.

Another family built their dream home in the back regions of Poway, a community ravaged by the Witch Creek fire. The father had installed cisterns and pumps for such a crisis. Several weeks before the fire, a fire chief told him one of the safest actions would be to stay inside the house. The chief explained wild fires driven by high winds would blow past the house; homes usually ignited and burned from embers and small brush fires after the inferno had blown past.

Then, the family of three and a young worker were caught by surprise. The pumps failed. Remembering the admonition, they gathered in the house. The fire passed. They described the noise as sounding like a fast freight train, similar to many descriptions of a hurricane. The heat was intense. But the inferno blew past. When they emerged, they put out several smoldering spots on the roof and doused several small shrubbery fires with a garden hose.

Across the county, charred landscape dominates the views.

The high desert chaparral will rebound quickly. Although evidence of the fires will remain for some time, winter growth will bring green to the hillsides and next spring, it will be hard to find the fire lines.

Replacing the houses will take several years. Some people who lost residences in the 2003 fire have still not completely rebuilt. Of course, some homes will never be replaced.

One good story has been generosity. Supplies provided by other residents more than met the demand from the half-million evacuated. The San Diego Red Cross has asked for donations to be given to other charities. Their coffers are full. People do care and have shown it.

So out here in the Southwest corner, we will smoke our turkey, salute the brave, and be thankful so few homes were lost. We will give thanks for a new beginning.

That makes it even more special to have a new grandson out here for the celebration.

1 thought on “Notes from the Southwest Corner – 5

  1. Whenever there is a fire around San Diego, i think of you and Maureen. I send up smoke and prayers for your safety.

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