San Diego Is On Fire

San Diego Is On Fire October 22, 2007

All figures updated as of 5 p.m. PST on Tuesday, Oct. 23

A follow-up blog–written today, Thursday, Oct. 25–is here.

As you probably know, much of Southern California is burning. San Diego (where I live) sure is. The fire has so far consumed some 250,000 acres in the mountains and rural areas immediately east of the city proper. It’s pretty effectively shut down the whole city. Highways and main roads throughout the county are closed.  1,250 homes have been destroyed or damaged. 500,000 people have been ordered to leave their homes. Qualcomm Stadium (where the San Diego Chargers play) is now/still an evacuation center — one of many throughout the county. (About 10,000 people are now living outside at Qualcomm stadium. Amazing.) No one’s supposed to go outdoors–or even use their cell phones, if they can help it. Just about every government employee who can move has been called in to help fight the fire.

And it’s [still] going to get worse before it gets better, because what’s [still] fueling the fires (what started Sunday as 10 or more fires have now become two, named the Witch Creek Fire and the Harris Fire) are the mighty Santa Ana winds, which are [still] these huge, hot, ferocious winds that sometimes sweep through Southern California and wreak all kinds of havoc with the temperature and people’s allergies and so on. They’re nasty. And they’re going to keep blowing for a couple of days. And that’s … well, how you keep a fire going.

I live on the coast, about half a mile from the beach. Our air here is usually as clean as it is anywhere in San Diego. But now the sun is completely blocked by the smoke: it’s just a dark pink ball you can stare right at. Everything is covered by a layer of grey soot: it’s basically snowing fine ash. The air is so thick with ash it muffles sound, so outside the air has that heavy quietness that comes with snowfall.

Everything’s pale with ash. The light is this eeerie grey-red. Nobody’s outside. If we go outside, we’re supposed to wear breathing masks. [Which the drugstore was out of. So I was forced to buy some Haagan-Das ice cream bars instead.]

My wife Cat and I woke up this morning to learn that we now live within an Advisory Evacuation area, meaning we dang sure better get ready to evacuate our place. But to where? The end of the land is a bicycle drive away.

So we’ve now got tote bags jammed with Evacuation Vitals waiting by our door. Change of clothes. Water. Flashlights. Box of Vanilla Wafers. We’re set. [Update: Evacuation line getting closer. Not good, because I’ve already munched pretty heavily on some of our evacuation supply food, which we had to buy at a drug store so it’s all canned peanuts, and dried fruit, and Wheat Thins, and how am I supposed to stay cooped up inside this place for two days without at least nibbling on our Emergency Vanilla Wafers?]

When the end of the world comes, it’s hard to imagine that it won’t look, feel, and smell just like this.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Yeah, I'm up northeast a little (Santee/El Cajon area), and while it's not quite snowing ash yet, the sky is that kind of weird color that make you feel just… odd. It's great lighting to photograph in, but other than that… just, weird looking.

    Keep upwind…! And stay safe.


  • Yeah, my wife's a photographer, and she keeps going, "This is so awful! But it's so great!"

    Isn't it weird, how dark it is, at 9:50 in the morning?

  • Hermz

    yeah im in Vista, north county san diego and the wild animal park some miles away is in danger of a fire… i just went outside right now cuz the power went out briefly and saw a cloud of black brown smoke coming my way. Its crazy, the other bad fire we had back in what was it 2003 i believe, i was living in the south bay. Couldnt even go to work today at rancho bernardo.

  • Yeah, we've all been wondering when/if they're going to start evacuating the animals at the Wild Animal Park. Awful.

  • I know what you mean. I'm north of you in Chino Hills. I lost a 40-foot tree last night from the 60 mph wind gusts. Thankfully, the tree landed in the street and not on my house.

  • Steve

    I'm in Carlsbad, no ash yet but the sky…wow. I got up late cause when I first woke I thought it was sunrise due to the color of the sun in the windows…crazyness. That wind last night was no joke either. Stay safe all.

  • Bob

    I live in Santee and work at MCAS Miramar. Too dark to see anything when I left for work this morning (0545) but could smell (faintly) the smoke from "somewhere."

    I don't think it's as bad as the last major fires we had, but it hasn't had as much time to get really going yet either.

    Been in and out our building quite a bit this morning and the smell is stronger here than at home but still no ash or anything like last time.

    As far as "San Diego is on Fire" I think that's a bt extreme. Gives a false impression especially for family/friends out of the state and loads the phone lines with some unecessary worried calls; especially if we're supposed to keep the lines free.

    We do have some activities that are limited and some offices are closed but many (like mine) are still business as usual.

    Not to say that there aren't some areas that are truely on fire but I'm not one of them (Knock on wood.)

    Good luck to all.

    I think the winds are the major contributor of your local conditions. Sometimes it's darker than at other times

  • Benjamin Silverwood

    I'm up at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as a Freshmen, but I'm from Rancho Bernardo. My family called me to let me know that they had evacuated at around 6am this morning. Chances don't look good for us, the fire was 2 miles to the east of our house and a little under a mile north.

    All I wanted to say is good luck to everyone down there.

  • John

    I'm in Rancho Penasquitos, not much visible ash on things yet but you can smell it even with the windows closed. Lucky I'm far enough away to not need to be evacuated but families literally only a mile away across the 56 have been ordered to move. Stay safe everyone, get everything together as soon as you can; family albums, documents, valuables. Prepare for the worse and get out as soon as you've been told to.

  • Lynn Yaali Benson

    I was there in the 2003 fires and experienced the ash falling from the sky and the red ball that is the sun in the sky and school closure. I'm in Seattle now, only wish we could blow some of our rain clouds your way. I hope those winds die down abit. Good luck & stay safe.

  • Yeah, it’s all about the winds.

    Here’s a fresh quote from the San Diego Union-Tribune: “The fires ravaging San Diego County are expected to get much worse before they get better. ‘This fire will probably be the worst this county has ever seen – worse than the Cedar fire,’ Sheriff Bill Kolender said.”

  • Sabina

    Blessings to you all during this dangerous time.

  • Here’s the lead from a fresh AP story:

    SAN DIEGO – Wildfires fanned by fierce desert winds forced the evacuations of nearly 250,000 people Monday in San Diego County, including hundreds who were being moved by school bus and ambulance from a hospital and nursing homes.

    More than a dozen wildfires had engulfed Southern California, killing at least one person, injuring dozens more and threatening scores of structures.

    The fires have burned about 100,000 acres in San Diego County, said county Supervisor Ron Roberts. “This is a major emergency,” he said.

    [BEN: Wow. Our prayers to your family. Please keep us up with what happens with your house.]

  • Michelle

    Unlike one of the other comments on here, I want to say that the title “San Diego Is On Fire” is very accurate. This is worse than the Cedar fire. With the recent cuts in the city’s resources, along with the natural forces that are fanning these flames, this is going to get worse before it gets better. John Shore, you have it right-on. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Elizabeth

    John – Hunky Hubby and I will be keeping you guys in prayer… Stay safe… and remember, stuff can be replaced… people can’t.

  • Thanks, all. Some crazy stuff happening out here. This morning, it might have been a stretch to say San Diego is on fire; tonight, there is virtually no other way to say it. A quarter of a million people forced from their homes! It’s insane.

  • In case you're reading this comment chain: With comment #18, just above, we're at Tuesday morning. Everything above that was written throughout the day yesterday.

  • John,

    My heart goes out to all of you there. You are in our prayers.

  • Definitely conducive. I guess not exactly like conductive, and not at all like caboosive, which is a word I made up…

  • windyblue

    God will take care of very one. And just get out of there move some place safe. Things are not important, only human lives, take your pets, with you and get out. you can always replace, things but not human lives, or your pets.

    Let the fire fighters handle it, they know what they are doing.

    A home can be replaced, cars, but as I said not a human life, nor your animals.

  • Judy Brown

    The positive thing is they are using lessons learned from the Cedar Fire. The reverse 911 has been a good tool in getting people out of areas in danger safely.

    Have a friend who lost her house in the Cedar fire who got evacuated from Harbison Canyon yesterday & then evacuated from her daughter's house in Spring Valley at 3 am today due to the fires. (so far their houses are OK.)

    Keeping everyone in our prayers. Hopefully no one that lost their houses in the Cedar fire have lost their houses in this year's firestorms. (today is the 4th anniversary of the Cedar fire).

  • John,

    May God cause His abundant showers of mercy to fall on you all down there in San Diego. I pray that you and your loved ones are safe and spared from the devastation tied to this horrible rage.

    Please be safe and keep us posted about further developments as they unfold.

  • I hope these winds die down really soon. My dad lives in SD and he was evacuated yesterday. The weather has to improve soon. I'm worried about all the firefighters too. I hope everyone is ok.

  • J. Michael Moore

    I have many friends in San Diego. You’re all in my prayers.

  • I know of the Santa Ana winds… I grew up in Orange County (ironically, where the city of Santa Ana is), and know the kind of havoc they can cause when it is especially dry. No campfires, no cookouts, and don't even think of smoking! Half the fires that are caused in California are from people who throw cigarette butts out their car window and they land or are windblown into dry areas.

    I hope that if you have to evacuate, that your home is spared. I can't imagine living minute to minute, waiting for the call to get out. Where I lived in Orange County was never in any danger of fires the 20 or so years I lived there. There's always a first time…

    (ps: I live in Oklahoma where we have to be on the look out for tornadoes every spring).

  • Jill Kerman

    Hey, John! I used to live in San Clemente and in Upland, so I understand the devastating effects fire can have…I told my husband that the last time I remember fires being that bad (and these new ones are probably much worse) was in 2003. My parent’s house was two blocks away from other homes that were being evacuated…I had just had my baby girl, and I loaded my trunk up to within an inch of its ability just in case we had to evacuate, too. I have to say that though wildfires aren’t pleasant, they make some pretty spectacular scenes, don’t they? The sun is the most eerie…makes me think of the last days.

  • Determined Disciple

    Hi John! My own “Hunky Hubby” and I, as well as my parents and friends, live here in Santa Clarita. I had the same scary musing yesterday (Monday)… this looks like the end of the world. I’ve lived here for almost 24 years, and I can’t remember such terror in people. We were unsettled by the Malibu fires in ’93, disoriented by the earthquake in ’94, and tense and irritated by the fires in ’03 (although my students weren’t so irritated, with 2 free days of no school). But these raging fires seem different… they’re encroaching upon every community in the Santa Clarita Valley. I wondered last night where Santa Claritans are going to evacuate to, if it comes to the point where we can’t just “evacuate” to another part of the City (I heard of family friends yesterday who evacuated their neighborhood only to return later with the family members to whose home they fled, because that “safe” place was surrounded by fire). And I feel like that passage from Romans 8:26 ~ I don’t know “how to pray as I ought.”

    If there are prayer warriors out there, please pray for us… I can’t even explain how. I guess at this point, my prayer request is that no more lives are lost (I think we’ve had 1 fatality statewide so far), and that God’s glory and mercy are revealed in this tragedy. Also, that those of us whose homes are spared will open our homes and our hearts in a way we never have before. Thank you for your intercessions. God bless you.

  • You certainly maintain a sense of humor as raging fires close in on you! I dropped by your site one other time when you were writing to and conversing amiably and respectfully with atheists. I appreciated your thoughts, attitude and style.

    So when I saw you on the WordPress Dashboard, I clicked over to see what's happening and get your perspective on being trapped.

    I wish I could share my graham crackers and M&Ms with you and your family. If you can worm your way out of town and about 2 days' nonstop drive across country, you're welcome here in the Midwest. Can't say you won't have to deal with a tornado after you get here, however….

  • Yeah, this fire is (obviously) exceptional. Just about everyone we know has been evacuated from their home; and everyone who hasn’t been is definitely packed, and waiting. I don’t think we’re going to have to evacuate–and if we DO, the evacuation center they’ll use is, like, right across the street from our house.

    So we’ll just, like, sleep overnight here at our house, and then go to the evacuation center in the mornings. And then come back to our house for lunch…

    Meanwhile, I’ve got this BOOK I’m working on that’s due in a month. Yikes! NOBODY in San Diego (including moi) is sleeping, because you’re worried, and you’re trying to stay in touch with local friends, and you have to close all your windows and doors and its so hot you feel like you’re stuffed into an oven–none of which, for me, is conducive (condusive?) to work.

    On the plus side, Cat (wife) is home from work for second day. But she stay busy tracking her employees: who’s been evacuated, whose house is threatened, etc.

    Anyway. It’s a trip. As usual in any situation like this, we’re all, again, struck by the quality of character constantly being evinced by firefighters. Those men and women are incredible.

  • Wow, what a bummer! I’m sorry you all are having to experience such a dramatic thing as those fires in your area. In substance, anyway, it reminds me of when the Lord sees bad habits and attitudes “eating” up our soul, that he comes to the rescue with his words to help us see and understand – so we might get changed to a new mindset. New growth in understanding comes forth as the “water” of the word enriches our very being. Just a little anecdote but I sure am sad to hear of your fires down there. May the God of peace preserve you all and show those who have lost alot, a way to come up and go forth in peace of mind and encouragement. Amen

  • Pat Mccarthy

    My heart thoughts and Prayers go out to all the people who have lost their homes in Southern California. My son and his family live in the La Costa/ Carlsbad area. I can imagine just how you are all feeling at this time.

    Stay safe.



  • Rachel

    John and everyone experiencing the fires…here in Dallas Texas and everywhere else in the nation, the fires are splashed all over the television. Yesterday at the Black Eyed Pea, the lunch crowd was amazed by the footage and I witnessed some genuine empathy right there in the middle of Uptown Dallas. Truly, everyone hears the numbers of people having to leave their homes and there is just silence and sorrow. Please know we are all thinking of you!

  • I’m sorry that I’ve failed to answer everyone’s wonderful comments, for each of which I’m grateful. Lemme see if I can say a word or two about each below.

    #3: Hermz: HOW ARE YOU? How’s your house???

    5: Matt: You okay?

    6: Steve: Can you BELIEVE how far west the fire came/is coming? Did you ever think when you woke up Monday you might actually be seriously thinking about evacuating???

    7. Bob: What’s happening with you?

    9: Sabina: Thank you. Seriously. Thanks.

    10: Ben, I emailed you to see how your parents/house is doing. I fear the worst, of course, given the location. Inform us when you can. I’ll say a prayer for you and yours right now. Jesus, I hope your family home is okay.

    Michelle: Bless your heart. Thank you.

    John: What’s happening with you? Are you still in your home?

    Lynn: The winds have decreased significantly today. Thank God. Seattle! Just SAYING it feels like a cool little shower. Nice.

    Elizabeth: Thanks to you and H.H. And you’re right, of course.

    J Michael: I hope your friends are all alright. Are they?

    Jill: Yeah, you’ve been through it, then. These fires are much bigger than the 2003 ones, but so many less lives have been lost due to hard lessons learned the first time around. Now they evacuate everyone, so soon.

    Determined: Amazing comment/post. Thank you. How ARE you??

    Marcy: Bless your heart. Thank you.

    Michael: Thank you very much. Lovely.

    Kerri: That human slinky on your site is crazy.

    Windy: You said it, baby!

    Judy: WOW! How is your friend? I didn’t even realize that today is the fourth anniversary of the hell that was the Cedar Fire. Amazing. Terrible.

    Sukky: We’re fine, thanks for the (eloquent) inquiry. We’re not going to be evacuated. We’ve had two air filters running in our place for three days now. We’ve got plenty of food and water. We feel, right now, like some of the luckiest people in the world. Since we are.

    Abar: How’s your dad?

    Stef: Yeah, the Santa Anas are one of the weirder weather phenoms I’ve ever known. They just wreck the air, don’t they? (He said, speaking as a guy with allergies.) It’s weird. They’re so … dramatic.

    Ann: Thank you! Your note came in just as I was leaving to go to the store (MAN IT WAS WEIRD TO GO OUTSIDE! LIKE WALKING INTO THE WORLD’S LARGEST ASHTRAY!!), and I must say, your mention of Graham Crackers and M&M’s inspired me, while shopping, to continue on my apparent quest to make sure that if a fire ever DOES come anywhere near me, I’ll be so fat that putting it out, for me, will be as easy as … well, rolling over on it. Perfect! Already, I’m ready to snuff out any flames that come within about 18 feet of my couch. (What is it about stuck-inside Regional Disasters that make a person want to EAT?? My freakin’ JAW practically hurts from the monster workout I’ve given it. Even as I write this, I’m thinking about the delicious can of Planter’s Cashews that I hear calling me. Too … stupid, basically. But fun! Which probably explains it…

    Pat: You son and his family are okay, yes? Are they? Real borderline right there…

    Rachel: What an awesome thought/comment. I wish everyone in San Diego could read it. And a lot will: This blog’s getting read a lot. Please tell your friends there how much we’ve been touched by their empathy.

  • samwrites2

    I’d like to offer any encouragement possible. Your blog turned out to be more informative than the major news web sites. From my web searches I see several volunteers and organizations heading to San Diego’s aid from many states. Stay safe and informed to move quickly if needed. And thanks for any updates.

  • Glen Buie

    Thank you all for the comments and updates. Here in South Carolina we get the info by major news networks. Some do better jobs than others. Thanks to Crosswalk and everyone. May the Lord Jesus keep you safe!

  • Sam: Fantastic note to me, which I take to heart. Thanks for your thoughtful, kind encouragement.

    Glen: And you too, Glen. Thanks for writing, and paying attention to our drama out here.

  • Craig

    Now you know how us arizonaians feel everytime our forest up north decides it wants to burn another million or so acres, though I am sorry for at least that didn't burn to many houses, unlike yours which seems to be taking a buldozer and running it right threw San Diego.



  • Marilyn: I didn't actually mean "end of the world" in any sort of Christian or biblical sense at all. Sorry I wasn't more clear on that.

    Sigh. More talk about how gays will burn in hell.

    That's such a bizarre fixation. Is there really nothing else in the world right now, Marilyn, that you think might be more worthy of your attention and concern, than the idea that gays are going to burn in hell? Anything? Poverty? Disease? War? Spreading the love of Christ?

  • Marilyn Taplin

    In response to: “When the end of the world comes, it’s hard to imagine that it won’t look, feel, and smell just like this.”

    In Scripture, if one were to take the word “fire” literally then your statement is logical. But there are so many times “fire” is not used in a literal way. Example: Luke 12:49, “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I if it be already kindled?” This is not literal fire.

    In the book of Jude we learn those in Sodom and Gomorrah are in a fire, and today all those who believe as those in S&G are in a fire.. The fire is not literal. Jude 23, speaking of those given to unnatural sex, “Save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” We are instructed to pull them out of this fire right here on earth. Today, how wide spread is this fire? When you see a gay parade, a gay wedding, a homosexual, or a heterosexual who commits unnatural sex do you see flames of fire? Put on your spiritual glasses, look again and you will see that they are in a fire. Of course the fire is not literal. How wide spread is that fire today? Is it everywhere? Can you see it?

    The fire that will come at the end is when Jesus fights fire with fire. Jesus will kindle a fire that will burn up the wicked. None of this fire is literal like the fire that just burned so much of CA.