Living with Fire in San Diego

Living through the wild fires has been an interesting couple of days and the kind that make you sit and reflect on things. When you hear about all the big numbers like 500K+ people evacuated, the size of the fires and the pictures of the houses did not fair well. But the things that really stick in your mind are the kindness of strangers, effective government, and realizing that you didn’t just lose everything.

There was another fire in San Diego four years ago and things didn’t go as well. This time, we got a phone call message from the Reverse 911 system that said we were part of a voluntary evacuation and directed us to a parking of a large shopping center about 4 miles away. Strange place to send evacuees I thought, but we complied. We had prepared to leave earlier in the day and got ourselves and our dog in the car and left.

Prepared for the worst, we drove to the the shopping mall. When we got there, there were a number of vehicles, like ours, packed to the hilt with those things we felt were important and found a great parking space with some shade.

A number of Carlsbad Police and mall security personnel were there and setting up shop. I asked one of the policemen about what was going on and he graciously explained that the reason for the voluntary evacuation was to get people out of an area that might be a problem later on. They chose this parking lot since it was open, full of concrete and blacktop and not a lot that could catch fire; cars would be safe there. There was a Mall that you could go to and walk around in the air conditioning and a movie theatre across the street.

The police were getting cases of water delivered and others were bringing in food. They had what looked like brand new portable facilities delivered. The police and security personnel were constantly walking around making sure that everyone was OK.

Now I realize that this is a different from New Orleans and we didn’t have the massive floods that stood in the way of an effective evacuation, but, if you have to be in a massive evacuation, this is the way to do it.

A couple of hours into our stay about four o’clock, two young men were going car to car asking if anyone needed anything at all. Someone asked if they were with one of the emergency response teams and they said they were not. They lived up the street and saw the evacuation site on TV and decided to come down and see if they could help.

About the same time, we saw a Pizza Hut truck pulling out of the parking lot and thought that maybe someone had a pizza delivered. In fact, a local Pizza Hut had about 25 pizzas delivered to help out. Other people were pulling up with cases of water, soda, bread, peanut butter and jelly.

When you evacuate to avoid a fire, all family members have to be out; that includes pets. So, just about every car and SUV had some type of animal aboard. Many had multiple pets and taking care of them would certainly present a problem. As I was walking back around, I noticed a young man and woman opening a car trunk filled with 50LB bags of dog and cat food. They set up an area by the police and started putting out bowls of food and water. What they did next completely astounded me. I noticed they were talking with an elderly woman with an SUV parked close to us and found out she had three big dogs and four cats inside. The man was explaining that he has an animal training facility a block away and was willing to take her pets back there where he could make sure they had food, water, and a safe place inside and out of the smokey air. I found out they were going to everyone with a dog and making the same offer. They did not do this haphazard. They wrote down the owners information, pets names, any med’s they need and any special food requirements.

We were there about 8 hours before we decided it was a safe bet to go back to our house. It was definitely a hassle, but when you see how well emergencies can be handled and the kindness of strangers, you realize why this is such a great country.

I feel sad for the people who have lost their homes and many memories. I am grateful that I got to see what community is all about even if I had to go through a hassle to experience it. I think I’ll surf the blogosphere and see what other stories I can find.


2 Responses to “Living with Fire in San Diego”

  1. 1 Jt Clough October 24, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    It is amazing & makes me very proud to be one of those that lives here. I also train dogs and once my house was out of danger turned to doing what I can to help those with dogs that are displaced from their homes due to the firestorm. It is tragic but it has brought strangers together as a family of San Diegons.

  2. 2 socalbuzz October 25, 2007 at 12:25 am


    My hat’s is off to you and others like you. Considering all the turmoil that comes along with being evacuated, having someone sigificantly reduce your stress level by taking care of important family members, pets, is huge. Great Job!

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