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Letters from the Fire Zone

Safe, relieved, and thankful.

by Rita Weiss and Jan Evans (Nov. 5, 2007)

The retail industry will become more segmented and 

(Note: Rita is the former co-owner of ASN Publishing with Jean Leinhauser. Jan is an industry consultant and former Editor of Craftrends, and writer for CNA.)

Rita Weiss.

At last both Jean and I have been 'repopulated' and permitted to return to our homes. Although Jean lives in Rancho Bernardo, which was devastated by the fire, her particular neighborhood was not touched. So aside from having to deal with soot that flew in under the front door, both Jean and Alice, her faithful companion Portuguese water dog, are doing fine.

"Jack and I had a difficult time returning to our house as our President chose today not just to visit San Diego but to have lunch with the fire fighters two blocks from our house. Getting through the closed highways was almost as difficult as fighting the fire. We arrived to discover nine homes in our tract had been destroyed completely, but our home had no damage except for a lot of soot.

"The air is heavy and it is hard to breathe, but it takes an 'adventure' like this to be thankful for everything."

Jan Evans.

First, let me thank all our friends and family, close by and across the nation, who called and sent so many emails of concern. Brian and I are fine, although a bit worn from worry and the mess of the winds and fires. Our house survived with only a few missing shingles from the roof, blown away by the 50-mile-an-hour Santa Ana winds, and the black soot of the fire which is everywhere. We have mainly stayed indoors this week, trying not to breathe in too much of the smoke and ash.

The fires started Sunday in Ramona, about 20 miles from where we live, fueled by years of scrub brush growth, single-digit humidity, and Santa Ana winds blowing from the desert. Monday morning we awakened to a strange light from outdoors – the pictures attached were taken about 7 a.m. in front of our house in Escondido. In case of emergency, grab the camera first, I always say!

At that time, the fire was about four miles from us, but looked much closer; the black smoke, tinged with the orange of the firelight, was everywhere south of us, but we still had blue sky to the north. That was the last time we saw the sky all week.

That morning we packed all our important papers and personal items, in case of evacuation, but it never came, thank God. Since then, many things gathered from around the house have joined that accumulation of my life which sits beside the front door – trying to figure out what is really important to you in time of crisis is really difficult. Pictures and old family mementoes, of course, are among the irreplaceables!

I urge you to make a list of things to take if you ever need to get out of your home in a hurry, as well as keeping copies of important papers, etc., in a location other than your home. Monday night, we sat in front of our house and watched a fire burning on a hillside about 2 miles from us, which was frightening to say the least. An area just a few blocks from us was evacuated, but we were allowed to stay in our neighborhood. We’ve been glued to the TV coverage, following the progress of the fires, which was erratic!

Today, we still have fires about nine miles north of us and still smell the smoke, but we can breathe easier, both emotionally and physically! We finally have time to think about the 500,000 people who were evacuated, and thank God that only a handful of people were killed.

Much of the credit for that goes to our firefighters, police, and an amazing new "reverse 911 system" which was recently installed; it allows authorities to pinpoint areas of danger with phone calls to home phones that advise people to evacuate; it cost millions but has saved so many lives! San Diego County is one of the first areas of the country to have this capability, and its importance has certainly been proved. If you are in a tornado-, hurricane-, flood-, or fire-prone area, please urge your community to look into this.

Brian returned to work yesterday, and I had a meeting in Los Angeles all day. It was disturbing to drive the 90 miles from here to LA through so many areas that the fire had burned, resembling a moonscape of gray dust and charred remains of trees and homes. That made me all the more thankful that we made it through unscathed! None of our friends and family here have been physically touched by the fire, as far as we know, which makes us relieved!

Most of the residents of San Diego are heading home by today, but at least 1,500 homes have been totally destroyed. Please send your thoughts and prayers for those families as they begin a long and very difficult time in their lives. Also please hold in your thoughts and prayers the 17 front-line firefighters who were burned trying to save people and homes; may their injuries heal quickly and completely.

San Diego is such an amazing place to live – the outpouring of neighbors helping neighbors and strangers volunteering to help anyone and anywhere has been unprecedented.

Thanks again for thinking of us!

Love from San Diego, where paradise is a local call!

(Note: A new company, Memories Never Lost, offers a variety of acid-free storage products to make it easier for consumers to transport photos and scrapbooks when they have to leave their homes quickly in emergencies. Visit http://shop.memoriesneverlost.com/main.sc. To read previous entries in Kate's Collage, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)



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