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San Diego Fire Pictures -- Sunday, 10/26/03

Note: This page is for the October 2003 fire. Go here for the October Firestorm 2007 fire or here for the May 2014 San Marcos Fire.

I've lived through the Harmony Grove Fire of 1996 when we lived in Carlsbad, CA and had to be evacuated when the 300-foot flames starting coming our way.

Today, I am watching the out of control fires to the South of me as they just sweep through residential areas, fanned by high winds. The sky above me is dark gray and ash is falling in my neighborhood. Below are the first pictures of what it's like for us here when the fire is about 15 miles to the South and the East. Air quality is falling in those areas.

It is heading our way. There is no air support available due to the many fires in Southern California, so the fires are unstoppable at this time. The Santa Ana weather is predicted to remain for the next three days, so this can only get worse.

Below are some pictures of this scary situation.

The Sky Above our Home at 9:40 AM


Smoke Clouds to the East at 9:40 AM


Fire Ash on my Car Hood at 9:40 AM


Related Information:

Here is a San Diego Union Tribune link to a time-lapse video showing the spread of the fire on Tuesday. The video requires RealOne Player to view.

Article on death of Firefighter Steven Rucker.

Below are comments shown in reverse-date order for those days of danger.


Wednesday Comments:

The air is starting to clear here this morning. The fire-fighting crews are making some progress in some areas. The Cedar Fire is now predicted to be contained on November 16th. Yesterday, officials thought they could have a handle on it by November 1st. Such is the nature of fighting wildfires in California.

Readers concerned about animals will be pleased to know that there have been many horses and other ranch animals rescued in the last few days and are being cared-for all over the county by volunteers. The animals await reunion with their owners as they are located. It is an amazing process of cooperation and leadership amongst the population here.

Update: 1:05 PM
The scene outside my windows are back to the normal views, as if nothing ever happened. The winds from the West have cleared out the smoke and improved the air quality back to normal here.

I just found out that today we're in the Good to Moderate on the Air Quality Index. Yesterday I errantly reported the 2.5 micron particulate at 160 micro-grams per cubic meter was present. I now know it was over 300!

Over towards the East County, there is still lots of smoke. That's to be expected with the pitched-battles being fought over there.

This will likely be my last regular update on the "October Fires". It has been a real learning experience. I already respected my fellow San Diegans' for their great attitude on life. Now during a traumatic crisis, that attitude proved itself in a new perspective.

I can go freely outside once again. I will be trying to find a way to help San Diego rebuild.

Update: 11:35 AM

For the first time in three days I can now see the mountains in the distance from my office window. The wind is blowing stronger since my last update, increasing as I type. A blue sky is starting to appear. I saw a couple fire-fighting helicopters heading East from here.

This map shows the general area of the Paradise and Cedar Fires as the close with each other today. The top of the map is just below Riverside County that has its own problems with the San Bernardino and other fires in that region.

Electrical and Natural Gas service is out in many areas affected by the fire. Poles are gone and wires destroyed.

Update: 10:35 AM

Winds here are picking up; it's probably about 5-10 mph now. Hopefully the air will clear today.

The high winds are now causing a dangerous situation near Julian. The fixed-wind aircraft are not able to operate, only helicopters can be used in those winds. I'm watching live-video of a helicopter drop water on flames, fly down to a nearby water source and then collect a batch of water to drop on the flames; that 30-second cycle immediately repeated.

The Cedar Fire fire-fighting crews in Julian have only one escape route if the fire gets too close. There are structures being reported on fire in Julian.

Wind gusts 35 mph and higher are driving the fire across Highway 78 and causing some of the fire-assets in Julian to be relocated towards Wynola.

So far, over 1,250 homes destroyed in the Cedar Fire. More than 250,000 acres burned and the winds will expand that acreage today.

Update: 8:40 AM

Thousands of fire-fighters and over 100 pieces of equipment are still defending the heart of Julian. The Cedar Fire managed to burn 200 to 300 homes in the outskirts of Julian. The winds today will clear the air here, but cause the fires to expand in East County.

I am reading that Supercomputers are not very accurate in predicting the spread or paths of firestorms. That capability won't be likely for several more years. This tells me that the human mind is still the best tool for fighting fires over rough terrain.

Some fire communications could be hampered today because of the massive solar storm heading towards Earth.


Tuesday Comments:

I thank all my friends and family that have checked in on us here. Sherry is up in Orange County while this fire activity and smoke is present. I've been staying here at home and it's okay here, all things considered under the circumstances.

The weather continues to cooperate in fighting the destructive fires. I haven't been out since Saturday and it looks like I'll be inside again today.

Update: 10:20 PM
The Cedar Fire has claimed about 1,060 homes. The Paradise Fire has claimed about 111 homes. These are the latest counts as the battle to save Julian and Descanso continues tonight.

The winds are already gusting 40 to 50 mph from West to East out in the Eastern County. This is complicating the battle for Julian.

On Wednesday, winds are forecast to be 30 to 40 mph winds from the coast towards the inland fires. Gusts on Wednesday in the mountain valleys predicted to be 50 mph or higher.

As I go to sleep tonight, I wonder what will be left unburned in this maelstrom of destruction.

Update: 6:45 PM

Structures have been lost in Pine Hills and Julian from the Cedar Fire although the official count may not be known until sometime on Wednesday.

The Cedar Fire alone is now calculated to be 250,000 burned acres. At 640 acres per square mile, that works out to be 390 square miles of destruction or almost 20 linear miles on a side.

The Eastern side of the Cedar Fire is 45 miles long. Just one small portion of it is affecting Julian. Fire officials say there is zero containment on the Cedar Fire around 99% of its perimeter. Only the western section in the city of San Diego proper is contained.

Update: 5:35 PM

The small town of Cuyamaca, California was totally destroyed this afternoon by the Cedar Fire at a loss of 100 to 150 homes there.

The firefighters are bracing to make a stand at Julian. Night has now fallen and the night always favors the fire. The image below is from Associated Press taken near Julian this afternoon.

Update: 3:35 PM

Palomar Mountain is being evacuated as the Paradise Fire expands in its direction. That fire is now over 40,000 acres burned with 56 homes destroyed during its path over the last two days.

The Cedar Fire looks really bad in East County moving towards Pine Hills and Julian. A line of fire ten miles long is advancing in those areas. The video feeds I've just finished looking at show heavy thick columns of smoke along that line with flames from the large pine trees going up about 60 feet above the top of the trees. Air tankers cannot fly air drops there because of the intense smoke. Only a few helicopters can operate against it and that's probably not enough water dropped to be effective. A very scary evening ahead for the famous tourist town of Julian.

We are now being told that the air quality in San Diego will continue to be bad for the next several days. According to National Standards, normal breathing should be limited to 66 micro-grams per cubic meter for 2.5 micron-sized particulates. The air in San Diego is currently at 160 micro-grams per cubic meter for that size particle. This means the air is between two to three times as bad to breathe as the standard.

Authorities say, don't go outside without an air-filtering system unless it blocks 2.5 micron-size particulate, otherwise you risk damage by 2.5 micron-sized particles embedding in your lungs.

Update: 1:10 PM

The haze is somewhat more diminished here at this hour. It likely will be Wednesday before stronger on-shore winds blow this stuff away.

Julian is now a mandatory evacuation area as the flames threaten to come over the crest in that part of East County. The fire there is a ten-mile wide front, advancing through the dry hilly forests out that way.

These battles are not over yet and won't be for several more days. No rain is predicted in the weather forecast.

I have been doing some research in air filtering masks. Right now, only industrial-strength air filters will trap the 2.5 micron-size particles that can lodge in the lungs. They are like the ones you see Firemen wear into a fire. Those paper masks and similar types you see being worn on TV are useless against the real dangerous small particles because they are not meant to filter out 2.5 microns. This may give the wearer's of such devices a false sense of security.

I'm not even running the fan on the A/C here because the internal air-filter won't catch those small sized particles either. All I would be doing is bringing in more of the bad stuff into a closed house. So, it seems the best I can do is stay put with all the windows shut. It makes me wonder what the Dust Bowl storms from the 1930's must have been like.

Update: 11:20 AM

Environmental conditions remain the same here in San Marcos. Air quality here in North County is hazardous. A slight wind blows towards the East while the haze is still about the same as last update. The fires are moving away from us today.

We are told the Cedar Fire burned over 300,000 acres so far and is still spreading. Over 800 homes destroyed, 12 people confirmed dead. Palomar Mountain is now being considered for evacuation as well as the towns of Pine Hills and Julian.

Fire-fighters are being pulled-off the lines now due to exhaustion from lack of sleep and food. This morning, some of them are eating their first meals since yesterday morning and getting rest after 42 hours of non-stop work.

Update: 9:55 AM

The wind here is still calm. The gray smokey haze continues as reported earlier. The picture below was just taken looking North from my home office. Usually I can see mountains far off in the distance as shown in the second photo down.

We are told that the Cedar Fire may not be under control until Monday 8:00 PM. So far it burned over 206,000 acres destroying 534 homes and 148 vehicles.

The Paradise Fire should be under control by Saturday afternoon having burned 30,000 acres.

TV stations show rattlesnakes roaming about in the open-areas as they look for shelter and food. Swarming bees can also be a problem in the affected areas. Of course when the rains come, we could have mud-slides in the canyons where all the vegetation burned.

Update: 8:35 AM

The Paradise Fire over near Escondido is no longer a threat to us. I try to stay updated reading this page. I found a map of the fires that may interest you.

As you probably also know, there are other fires up near Los Angeles. They are really bad there too. Southern California is under full assault by fire, smoke, and ash.

The biggest threat now is health issues. Even with all the windows closed, my breathing is affected. As I look out the window this morning, there is a thick gray haze of smoke close to the ground everywhere I see. At this time the wind is not blowing at all.

My good friend, Paul Webber, lost his home in the fires of Poway, California. He was one of the people I was worried about over in East County. Paul is the President of the San Diego Java Users Group and he left this message this morning on the group's Yahoo Discussion Board I manage:

"You are all aware of the San Diego fires and the effect these disasters can have on our lives. In some cases if was just a day off of work, if that; in other cases, like mine, it was the total loss of my home. For those who have also suffered a loss, even a job loss or unemployment, my sympathies go out to you and I feel that we as a group can help each other. I am writing this post to let you know that I will continue to coordinate the group meetings and presentations but there may be a few hiccups along the way. I am actually scheduled for the Ant and JUnit presentation at our next meeting and feel that I will be able to make the presentation."


Monday Comments:

The fires continue to hold stage front-and-center this morning. So far, 14 people have died, and over 400 homes destroyed. These fires are monsters fought by miniscule human beings doing a valiant effort to stop it.

People are now finding out that insurance companies may not be able to find comparable places to live for their clients whose homes have been lost. This means people who are used to living in million dollar homes may be living in something less than that for the next 12-18 months while their homes are being rebuilt in burnt-out areas. I don't know where they'll find hundreds of comparable available houses because of the tight housing market here in San Diego. In my thinking, it probably means homes in the unaffected fire areas will suddenly be worth a lot more money just because of the housing shortage.

Update: 4:50 PM
As the fires become less of a direct threat to us here in North County, the health issues of breathing smoke and ash become an important factor.

Fortunately, the winds are blowing from the West to the East along the coast, clearing the air for the more populated areas.

Update: 2:40 PM

The California Governor just announced that San Diego is about to receive more fire-fighting resources. 60 more fire trucks are coming to San Diego from other parts of California. In addition, 50 fire trucks plus two fire-fighting helicopters are coming from Nevada; also, 24 fire trucks are coming from Arizona.

Residents from Eastern Escondido and Southern Valley Center are being asked to evacuate at this time.

Here's a summary of related events so far.

Update: 1:40 PM

Our risk of being evacuated is dramatically reduced as the winds blow from the West towards the front line of the Paradise Fire over near the Eastern edge of Escondido. In fact, the air is clearing up from the smoke and ash. Air quality is predicted to improve from this point forward here in San Marcos.

The downside of the wind changes is the fire risks have increased for two famous places here in North County: San Diego Wild Animal Park and San Pasqual Battlefield SHP.

Update: 12:20 PM

We are now being told these fires will take at least five days to get close to being under control. My friend, Dale Thackrah, sent me this satellite image of Southern California. It's very dramatic.

The Paradise Fire in Escondido is expanding, but more to the North than in my direction (West). However, the winds may shift for a couple hours this afternoon, blowing the fire this way. The next 8-10 hours will be true test of whether we are going to be evacuated or not if that wind shifts to the West.

I now see the City of Escondido is publishing updated information on the status of fires in its jurisdiction.

I must remark that KUSI TV has the best reporting on these fires. The anchordesk shows a Thomas Guide map during the remote location, on-scene video. In that way, the viewer knows not only where the video is being broadcast from, but where the fire being viewed is actually located. All broadcasts should implement this concept for all on-scene video shoots whether for fires or any other subject.

Update: 9:20 AM

The winds are calm here this morning; but it was the same yesterday at this same time and we all know what happened later in the day. I am watching the status of the Paradise Fire in Escondido closely, as that is the one that threatens me most directly.

The only way I find out about updates is the TV or Internet. In looking at the Escondido Fire Department page, there is NO INFORMATION about the fire. This is one place that should have the latest information and as of this update, there is nothing.

Contrast that lack of vital information with my city of San Marcos. That is the way government should work by keeping citizens informed. I'll have to stop by there later and thank the person in-charge at City Hall.

I just saw two large fire-fighting helicopters fly by from the North-west. They are probably heading to the fires to get ready to fight them. They weren't carrying any suspended water buckets.


Sunday Comments:

Update: 7:45 PM
It seems the firemen are taking some proactive action against some portions of the twenty-five mile long fire line. In some places the winds are down, but they are expected to increase in the early morning.

Many San Diegans' are helping out one another. They've interviewed people whose own homes burned down, yet they stay around to help others save their homes. This county pulls together well. Much work to do before this is over. I need to find a way to do my share or contribute somehow.

Update: 3:45 PM

A fire much smaller, yet closer to home, is now threatening the eastern edges of the city of Escondido. That city is just to the East of us. At this time some people there are being asked to voluntarily evacuate. If the winds change and start blowing West or NorthWest from that fire, it will get very dicey here. A long night is ahead...

Update: 3:05 PM

Bad news, the winds will not die down until at least Monday afternoon. Now officials are alerting folks that the city of Rancho Bernardo, may be threatened if the winds change. That city is only about 10 miles to the South of us. Over 300 homes destroyed so far with over 100,00 acres burned.

Ironically, the last time Monday Night Football came to San Diego, we suffered the Harmony Grove fire in 1996. It will be interesting to see how Monday night's game is affected.

Update: 1:23 PM

I've checked in with some friends who live near the current fringe of the fire. They say they are fine. The winds are shifting around and I don't smell as much smoke as I did earlier. The smoke clouds have dissipated near me too.

The situation is very fluid at the fire lines. Animals and people are evacuating ahead of the flames. This is extremely dangerous emergency for San Diego. One fireman interviewed on TV said he saw trees on fire flying over his head as he crossed I-15, driven by the fire's own fierce winds. He went on to say in twenty years of service, he's never seen a sight like that.

As I publish this update, the fire is West of I-805, South of 52 and continues to make unabated progress towards more populated areas. There is not enough fire equipment available. Even if volunteers showed up, they have no extra fire-fighting equipment to give them.

Update: 12:02 PM

Winds have picked up here now, blowing about 10-mph. The acrid smell of smoke is increasing and ash is starting to blow into the house through the screens. As the temperature rises, it would be tempting to turn on the air-conditioning. However, a major power feed into San Diego has now fallen down due to fire and we are being asked to conserve power. The fires remain out of control and many business and residential areas are now either burned or threatened as the winds blow nearer the fires from 30-50 mph. Three people have died in the Ramona fire (one of five burning in San Diego) alone that has burned over 80,000 acres as of this time.


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