Tuesday, October 23, 2007

San Diego Fires: My Personal Experience

San Diego, California is on fire. A series of massive fires are burning and causing massive, massive damage. The Witch and Harris Fires are the worst ones, with over 150,00 acres (60,713,000 hectares for my Brit readers) burned so far. San Diego county smells of smoke and is has soot falling everywhere, like snow. Photo above left: Satellite image of Southern California shows the massive fires that are visible FROM OUTER SPACE. Here is my story...

Monday morning I made my usual weekly drive from Palm Springs to San Diego for a few days at the office. I was not fully prepared for what I would encounter. I made my usual journey from I-10, and discovered that route 79 through Banning was closed for some reason, so I took the mountain pass through route 60. There were intense winds blowing sand, making visibility quite difficult. By the time I made it all the way south on the 15, it was nearly 5:00 AM and I-15 was shut down. The wildfire had jumped the freeway, making it impossible to pass. I was diverted along route 78 to the I-5 freeway along the Pacific Ocean coastline. After several hours in the car with Shimi (dog) and Owen (cat), I reached the area where there was evidence of the massive San Diego wildfires that were burning. Following are some photos I took myself while escaping San Diego on Monday evening:

Above: while driving south on I-5, I saw the massive smoke cloud in the distance, & above right: as I continued to drive south the smoke cover grew darker.

Above: By this point I was completely under the smoke cover, which was still quite high above the highway. the immediate air in front of my car was still clear, as you can see.

Pets Need Help too!

One of the things my staff and I did today was to call all of our dog and cat vendors to ask for support and donations of food, kennels, bowls, leashes, etc. We had great success with our vendors. We were able to round up quite a bit of dog and cat food, bowls, kennels, carriers, leashes, and other supplies for pets displaced due to the fires. PETCO has sent all sorts of supplies to the local evacuation centers where people have evacuated their homes with their pets. In some ways, I feel the most sad for the animals, who are scared, confused and jittery. Thank you to all of our wonderful vendors who are helping us support pets in need.
The Evacuations Continue
All day long, various towns and neighborhoods within San Diego county were ordered to be evacuated. At 1:00 pm my company closed the office, so I bailed out. Once at my condo, I decided that I just didn't feel safe in San Diego and decided to leave town and head back to Palm Springs. I took the only highway out of San Diego that was still open or moving. Shimi (my dog) was restless in the car, perhaps he was nervous from the smoke. I drove as far east as I could on route 8 to get far away from San Diego. Eventually I made it to the Cleveland National Forest. Here are some of the photos I was able to take:

Above: These don't look too threatening, but these are views looking west of the San Diego fires, from the Cleveland National Forest.

After I safely passed through this part of San Diego county, this area was closed and evacuated. I was one of the last passenger vehicles to escape town on this road.

As of this evening, authorities report that as of now over 300,00 people have been evacuated from their homes, 500 homes have been destroyed (known so far), and another 5,000 homes are at risk of being burned. I am grateful to have escaped San Diego to my home in Palm Springs but I am fully aware that there are people in San Diego who don't have that luxury, and certainly are not as comfortable as I am this evening. Please keep San Diegans in your thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.
-Rick Rockhill


Desert Songbird said...

So glad you made it out alive, Rick. Hubby left Palm Springs this morning for Burbank; he's alive and well, safely tucked into his hotel in Burbank.

We have family in Jamul; haven't touched base with them yet.

Your photos are incredible.

Anonymous said...

I thought about you when I first became aware of these fires today, Rick.

If we can be of assistance to you in any way, please give a shout, k?
You can locate the email addy at the blog.

Anonymous said...

oh gosh rick, I hope you are OK. I've been watching the news and was hoping you would post something for us. My thoughts are with everyone in San Diego and southern california.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

I'm glad you and the critters made it out okay! I worry about the animals, too. Unlike humans (even small ones), you can't explain things to them and make them understand.

I have a blog friend in San Diego who I'm anxious to hear from. Keep Rachel and her sweet bunnies in your thoughts!

WAT said...

Shoot man, we got 'em going on here in the LA area too, so it's bad all over!

This Rancho San Diego area is so beautiful, what a shame! I'm in the San Fernando Valley and am thankfully not being exposed to any smoke at all as the winds blow it all towards the ocean.

lime said...

such a scary thing!

Rebel Yankee said...

You guys are in my thoughts! Somehow, during my time in SAn Diego, I managed to miss most of the bad fires, although I was there for the Julian scare, when the city nearly fell to a fire.

Lola Starr said...

So glad you are okay! And that you guys have gotten so many donations for the animals. That's awesome!

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing your story I am sure it was a little scary to be leaving town with those fires raging like that.

snowelf said...

Rick that gives me chills just thinking about it!! Those pictures are haunting.

But that's wonderful news for the pets and I'm glad you are safe.


David said...

Glad you got out Ok, it looks pretty awful over there.

Lilian said...

I wonder about your wellbeing when I heard of the fires in the news, and now I read you and your pets are fine, excellent! In times like this one is when we are reminded what a small thing we are compared to Mother Nature... Cheers!

CRUSTY MOM-E said...

WOW I have goosebumps! your pictures have me in tears!! how terrible..and I can't help but think like a mom and concern myself over the poor children and what they're viewing...so young too.. makes my heart cry.

Jimmi said...

Great photo's thanks for sharing. i hope all is well with you!


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