San Diego Wildfires 2007

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

RB Inn heroes toast of town

Posted @ 3:26 PM

In between all the parties and hearty handshakes from bigwigs, Dave Buckles and his grounds crew at the Rancho Bernardo Inn continue to clean up the considerable mess left by the Witch Creek fire.
He and his eight crew members are being feted for saving more than six houses on two streets near the posh golf resort. When Buckles and his men got to work after dawn the day the fire raged through RB, they just grabbed some hoses and started fighting back -- for 12 hours.
They've been featured in the newspaper and on TV. The mayor has invited them to lunch. Neighbors whose homes were saved threw them a party last weekend, and another party is in the works by people on another street whose homes they are credited with saving.
"It's been pretty crazy. My eyes stung for like three days the smoke was so bad and one of my guys got his jacket pitted with ember burns," said Buckles, 46. "But I'm really proud of my crew. They work hard all year without much recognition and now to have this, it's pretty great."
This Sunday they're been invited to the San Diego Chargers game by Luis Castillo, defensive end, who also promised them all an autographed jersey.
Buckles' crew turned firebrigade are: Esteban Chavez, Jorge Rosales, Manuel Soto, Julio Montes, Alfonso Escutia, Jose Luis Valencia, Guillermo Heredia and Pedro Ramirez.
The only house they couldn't save had a wood-shingle roof that burned too quickly for them to put out. But still Chavez raced into the burning building to save a photograph of a little girl he saw lying on the floor, its frame and glass unbroken and the picture unscathed.
The picture was of Chase Sanders, now 18. When her mother, Sharon Sanders, was given the picture by Chavez, she said she broke down into tears. The Sanders family had also been in the epicenter of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, she said, and the same photograph was one of the few things that survived that disaster unscathed.

-- Lisa Petrillo

Monday, November 5, 2007

No help for some victims

Posted @ 11:24 AM

"It's hopeless," declared Heather Frost after she left the Rancho Bernardo Assistance Center Monday (11/5) morning.

At the center filled with federal, state and local officials and volunteers galore she found no help for her situation, though she's a victim of the wildfires.

Frost was forced to evacuate for days when fire hit her home near Rancho Bernardo but felt lucky when her place was spared. "Everything's just smelly," she says.

But for her disaster hit this weekend when rent was due. Because of fire she couldn't work for nearly two weeks at Hernandez Hideaway, the venerable restaurant overlooking Lake Hodges in the hard-hit rural Del Dios community by Escondido. While the restaurant was saved it took days to clean out soot, repaint, restock all the food that had been ruined and reopen.
That cost her a quarter of her income, she says, and though she got back to work last week she's struggling to buy groceries. When she looked at her budget for the next three months she realized that the debt bubble was going to swallow her entire holiday. She was hoping one of the agencies could help with that gap caused by lost wages, but she said she was told there wasn't.

"Everything gets pushed off to the next month. It's not a good time to have this happen right before Christmas," Frost said.

- Lisa Petrillo, staff writer

Friday, November 2, 2007

Fires follow San Diegans to Hawaii

Posted @ 3:45 PM

Here's a nice post on talk of our county's fires following travelers to Hawaii, from the
U-T's OutThere blog.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Diamond in the rough

Posted @ 1:36 PM

After he lost his house in the 2003 Cedar fire, Brett Fitzpatrick started preparing for the next one that he knew would come.

He bought yellow slicker pants and sturdy rubber boots. He made mental lists of all the hard-earned lessons about loss and domestic resurrection through rebuilding.

Being a teacher, Fitzpatrick offered his lessons in disaster by volunteering at the Rancho Bernardo Help Center, the one-stop center organized by community groups and government officials to aid fire victims.

Fitzpatrick and his 9-year-old daughter, Megan, have been pitching in by sifting through the rubble of John and Pierrette Wormsley's home in Rancho Bernardo. The couple in their late '70s felt too shakey to dig themselves.

They have unearthed shards of china and porcelain from the Wormsley's collection. They found a diamond ring, the metal ruined and the diamond clouded. But still.

They found temporary housing until Dec. 1, but haven't decided whether to rebuild or relocate.

Pierrette stood on the ash heap of their home with its stunning view. "I used to get up every morning and open the windows and say, `Ah, this is my valley."

Fitzpatrick looked up from digging Wednesday and handed Pierrette a piece of folded notebook paper. A letter from his little girl to the Wormsleys telling them it will be all be OK.
- Lisa Petrillo, staff writer

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Notes of gratitude at Starbucks

Posted @ 6:29 PM

At the Starbucks Coffee shop inside the local Albertsons in Fallbrook, numerous notes of gratitude from firefighters and other emergency workers reveal one reason for their stamina.

"Starbucks Fallbrook!! You guys are the real heroes. You saved us so we may save others! ST 6017A Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire."

Last week, from Wednesday through Sunday, the Starbucks in Albertsons at 1133 S. Mission Road handed out free coffee to "anyone in a uniform," said Brianna Roth, an 18-year-old Starbucks employee. Roth and her co-workers also carried cups of coffee and thermoses to area checkpoints. The grocery store gave out muffins and sandwiches, Roth said.

Some of the coffee was supported by local patrons who bought gift cards and left them on the counter for firefighters to use.

The numerous notes, penned on slips of paper and brown Starbucks paper bags, were effusive.

"Thank you so much for taking care of us!" wrote a group of firefighters from Ukiah, Fort Bragg, Eureka, Laytonville and South Lake County.

"This is a very kind gesture. Thank you," wrote firefighters from Meeks Bay Fire Dept. at Lake Tahoe, which suffered a devastating wildfire this summer.

Firefighters from Deadwood Camp in Siskiyou County, Fremont, Alameda County and the city of Alameda, Berkeley, Livermore, Pleasanton, Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno, Yosemite, Vista, Camp Pendleton, Rancho Santa Fe and other places all stopped at the Starbucks during last week's fires.

"You guys are awesome! Thanks for keeping us awake on patrol," wrote one Sheriff's deputy.

On Oct. 26, a man named John Hays stopped in and wrote: "It has been an honor to help you folks."

Roth and her co-workers said many firefighters refused to accept coffee for free, and donated money for a fund being raised for an Albertsons worker who lost his home.

Amid all the notes posted by emergency crews, a woman named Kathryn D. left her own simple message:

"Thank you for saving our home," she wrote. "God bless you all."

- Bruce Lieberman, staff writer

Special kids come through for fire victims

Posted @ 1:19 PM

We got this email from Bernie Colon and wanted to share it:

"My mother is a 'Special Needs' teachers assistant at Rancho Bernardo High School. She and her group work with severely handicapped children at the school. She and her kids have been diligently working all school year collecting/recycling cans at the school to have money for their social events (Halloween, Christmas etc.) They saved up approximately $75 this time and were going to use it for their Halloween party.

"However, when they returned to school after the fires they decided as a group to use the money for two things. They spent some of the money to buy baking goods so they could make cookies for the Firefighters and Police Officers who helped out during the fires. They also presented both groups with a home made thank you banner signed by each child. The class then donated the remaining money to the school's fire victims fund to help the families who lost their houses during the fire.

"I think this shows just how special these kids and their teachers truly are. It is rare these days to see someone at that age so willing to give up hard earned money (that was slated for a party) so they could say thank you to those who helped and give to those who are less fortunate."

- Tom Mallory, U-T Breaking News Team

Another bump in the road for 4S Ranch family

Posted @ 12:47 PM

When will Scott Slade ever be able to go home?

Slade hasn't been back to his 4S Ranch home since Jan. 3, when he suddenly collapsed and within two weeks became totally paralyzed. His wife, Kathy, was so stressed that she went into premature labor with their twin daughters.

For months Slade had been receiving specialized care at a Denver rehab center, and Oct. 9 was supposed to be his homecoming. But as contractors retrofitted the family's house for disabled access, they found toxic mold, especially dangerous to those with weakend immune systems.

Kathy and her babies fled to the Radisson Hotel in nearby Rancho Bernardo, where Scott stayed while hazardous materials experts scrubbed their house.

But when the fires began last week, Scott Slade, who uses a ventilator to breathe, had to be evacuated to Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego.

A day later Kathy Slade was evacuated from their 4S Rancho home that was threatened by the Witch Fire, and she packed up the twins yet again and checked into a hotel downtown. Another bump in the rocky road for the Slade family.

"It was a nightmare. I told Scott this is longest homecoming ever," said Kathy, an executive with Cricket wireless company.

Since the fires she's bought air purifiers for their house and scrubbed down the walls trying to clear out the ash and fumes. They're hoping Scott will finally get home this weekend. Meanwhile Kathy plans to take Samantha and Stephanie, dressed as pumpkins, out to trick-or-treat for their first Halloween tonight and e-mail the pictures to Scott in the hospital.

- Lisa Petrillo, staff writer