The evacuation order finally came at about noon yesterday. Kiki and I had packed the cars in expectation of the order and were out of the apartment in under 5 minutes; with only one minor hitch. As we were transporting him down the stairs, the cat carrier where we'd stowed Zorro decided that he was just too damn heavy and the bottom fell out, releasing a very frightened kitty into the out-of-doors. He was easy to corral and we were soon on our way out of the area... or so we thought.
As we reached Tierrasanta blvd, traffic slowed to a crawl. This is to say that when we pulled out of the parking lot, we were basically in one long 2 lane parking lot. It may have taken us 5 minutes to get out of the complex, but it took another 20 to get us out of the neighborhood. In the process Kiki and I were separated. I tried to reach her on her cell phone but had many problems getting a line and when I did get a line, she didn't answer. I later found out that her cell phone had been in the trunk of her car. As we inched up the road towards Rueda drive, I looked over to the right of me (I'm moving westerly) and saw that the smoke on the ridge above our apartment complex was almost impenetrable. It was a wall of grey, acidic clouds billowing down the canyon and onto the roadside. The ash was falling like snow flakes, except I've never seen black/orange snowflakes before. If things had remained as they were the evacuation might have become a tragedy. Like many neighborhoods in San Diego, there is really only one way out. The SDPD came along very quickly and began to divert traffic onto the oncoming (already closed) lanes. This transformed a 2 lane parking lot into a 4 lane road. The congestion cleared almost immediately. Since I could neither see Kiki, nor could I wait to locate her, I made my way southbound to her parent's house in the central-east part of San Diego. Gladly, not 5 minutes after I reached her parents, Kiki pulled in and we unloaded the only the cats and the bird... by this time we were significantly concerned that the fire might spread to her parents neighborhood. That concern grew as evening wore on into nightfall and we began to be able to see flames. Once nightfall had completely overtaken the city, Kiki, her father, myself, and some of the neighbors went down to the community college to take a look at the flames and to assess for ourselves the severity of the encroaching threat. We had been there for all of 10 minutes when the campus police ran us off saying that they fire was going to come through here and there was nothing that they could do about it because there were simply no fire fighters available to fight that finger of the fire. We then helped Kiki's mom load some things into their vehicles should the evacuation order come. course of wisdom, but her parents had lived in that house for 30 years and weren't going to leave if they didn't have too. At the same time, we decided to sleep in shifts so that someone would be awake if the SDFD came through ordering a mandatory evacuation. Kiki and I took the first shift.
After midnight, some very interesting things are shown on cox cable... did you know that channel 55 broadcasts softcore porn after midnight? Now you do. You also now know that this porn sucks. Kiki made it until about 2:30a before, exhausted, she fell asleep on the couch. I managed to stay awake until 4a when her father came out to tell me that he was awake and that I could go to sleep. I didn't sleep until almost 5a though.
The phone started ringing at about 6a. Many people were calling to check on Kiki's parents, and they (her parents) were calling to check on their friends, former neighbors and employees. I awoke at around 7a and then fell back to sleep at 7:30a until about 9:30a. The fires in our area had really dwindled during the night and if the wind held wouldn't pose a significant threat. Now, I need to mention that today's wind forecast was for light Santa Ana winds that would gust between 40 and 50 mph. This is compared to yesterday's moderate Santa Ana winds which were gusting at greater than 60 mph (in some places). Those winds never materialized. For once, just when we needed it, mother nature decided to play nice... well really she shifted her attentions both north and south of us. The fire still burns in Ramona, parts of Scrips Ranch, Otay (O-tie for you people who aren't from these parts) Lakes, Alpine, and Paradise Valley. That break in the winds really has allowed the fire crews to make some strides in saving homes and property. As the day passed, we grew more and more confident that our apartment was ok and the her parent's place would be ok and we grew anxious to return and see what had happened.
The intervening hours were nerve wracking. There was literally less than 5mins of total coverage that related to our neighborhood. In the big picture, this is understandable because there are many other areas being ravaged, but still, we wanted information... we needed that information. How was our home, when would we be let back to see what had happened. At around 4p we heard that they were allowing Tierrasanta residents to return to their homes. Kiki and I took one car and headed back to evaluate the situation and make decisions. Thankfully, our apartment was spared. It was, however, a very close thing. There is at most 10' of distance between the fire and the back side of our apartment building not complex, but building. There is a fence that separates us from the wilderness area and that fence is the physical demarcation line between what burned and what didn't. One side of the fence has wet, green grass and the other... nothing. The fire crews did a valiant job holding the fire off, and from the looks of it, their back burn saved the day. The entire canyon behind our building, part of the Mission Trails Regional Park, is burned to the ground. There are still hot spots out on the ridge, trees that are still burning and the like, but they have no fuel that can spread the fire without serious, and I mean serious winds. It's a little eerie because we almost didn't notice, except that by chance I glanced past the building and saw that the trees that backed up to the fence were black. We'll get some pictures tomorrow, but there wasn't enough light for my digital camera to get any good ones tonight. Once we saw the fire area, we realized just how close we'd come to losing everything. It's one thing to crack jokes about how great renter's insurance is because you'll be able to get all new stuff, it's an altogether different one to realize that you almost had to do just that.