"We could see it from the freeway, " Alice Beas (pronounced bay-us) said yesterday afternoon. She was talking about her home in Rancho Bernardo, on Wessex Street. She and her husband George and sons, Rocky, 11, and Tommy 24, piled in the car and drove up 15 because they couldn't stand it anymore.
The family's joy is tempered by thoughts of their neighbors on Wessex Street.
"You can see the gaps where my neighbors' houses were," Beas said softly. She said she fully expected find nothing but ruins in her cul-de-sac.
"Really, when we left, we had minutes to get out," she recalled. "There was fire across the street, fire behind our house (on a canyon). It was very, very frightening."
They evacuated to her sister Nancy's three-bedrooom home in Clairemont, which became refuge for 14.
"We have air mattresses in the living room, air mattresses in the dining room," said Beas with a laugh. "But it was fun. We ate pizza, drank beer," and this close-knit family bonded even more.
But they worried, too.
"I made Rocky watch lots of the coverage so he would be prepared for the worst," said Beas. "To try to keep stuff from him has backfired on me before."
He got a nice surprise.
"I feel great. Really happy," said the sixth graders at St. Michael's in Poway. A far cry from 4:30 a.m. on Monday when the evacuation call came.
"I was scared. It was really scary. I thought I was going to throw up."
Now he can't wait to get home, though he is sad about the children in his neighborhood who can't.
How will he handle it?
"I don't know," he said with a very deep sigh.
-- JANE CLIFFORD