Backward Rain

  January 19, 2004


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Update - Fire
January 19, 2004 - Monday

Everyone has had years that stand out in their memory. For me, they were years with life changing events and they became points of reference when looking back. In 1968 I graduated from high school and that spring, Robert Kennedy was assassinated. I spent the summer of 73 hitch hiking around Europe, in 1980 I began my current job and in 1992 my mother died.

2003 was one of those years. The death of my father along with the Cedar Fire in Southern California guarantees that year as a major waypoint in my life.

In October, after a two week backpacking trip in Sequoia, Catherine and I returned home on Saturday October 25. It had been a rough trip. We were pestered by bears the entire time so I was looking forward to being home and getting some rest. At 3 a.m. the next morning, Catherine looked out the window and noticed an orange glow to the Northwest. We live in brush fire country and we’ve seen it before. By that night the flames were too close for comfort and we abandoned our house. Catherine took her car and followed me in my pickup which was pulling a utility trailer loaded with two peacocks and other assorted junk. Smokey the cat road in the front seat with me. We drove to the Descanso Town Hall and slept in our vehicles until 2 a.m. when the police came through and evacuated the entire town. From there we headed east to Pine Valley where we slept alongside the road with hundreds of other evacuees. We needed to go west into San Diego but all freeways in that direction were closed. Finally at 10 a.m. the next morning, Interstate 8 was briefly opened and we headed west to stay at my fathers house. Apparently the highway patrol had miscalculated and the fire flared up as we headed out. They closed the highway again though, too late for us. We ended up driving through blinding smoke with flames on both sides. I could feel the heat through the truck windows. A close call but we made it.

Amazingly, our house survived even though the area is so remote that the fire fighters wouldn’t come into our valley. The flames came right up to the house, circled it and continued up a hill in the back. Everything more than three feet from the house was totally burned. Our entire 20 acres burned along with outbuildings and the guest house on the north side. Power and phones were out for two months and Cuyamaca State Park on our east side will be closed indefinitely.

I’ve been spending the past 3 months rewiring our wells, replacing water tanks and water mains. The area looks like the surface of the moon for hundreds of square miles around though we’re beginning to see some signs of new growth. Most of the pine trees did not survive though the oaks faired better. We’re hopeful that they will leaf out in the spring.

All-in-all, we’ve been lucky. Several of our neighbors lost everything they had and I’m grateful that we have a place to sleep. Rebuilding is keeping me busy so for now, updates to this site will be erratic.




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