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