October 2003 Southern California fires

All that’s left

Picture of the Moment

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Earlier today as I was reading blogs from around the world, I came across a blog post that had a picture of a guy chopping wood for the Christmas Eve fire. San Diego, and most of California, is considered a high fire hazard area, so the great majority of us do not chop wood for fires. Rather, our fireplaces use gas instead of wood.

In October 2003, there were 15 wildfires that burned out of control in San Diego County, the largest of which was the Cedar Fire (we even name our fires out here!). The Cedar Fire is the largest fire in California history, burning 280,278 acres, destroying 2,232 homes, and killing 15 people.

Following is a picture from space of the many fires in Southern California in October 2003. Most of the clouds you see in the picture are smoke clouds.

October 2003 Southern California fires

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Part of the Cedar Fire roared through Alpine and the Viejas Indian Reservation. Fortunately, firefighters were able to save the Viejas Casino & Outlet Center, but some of the homes on the Reservation were not saved. Here are the remains of one home on the Reservation, nine years after the fires roared through:

IMG_3963 framed

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The buildings at the center right of the picture are at the Viejas Casino & Outlet Center, a great place to go shopping, play some Las Vegas-style games, or eat a great buffet meal. It’s right along Interstate 8 in Alpine:

Viejas map

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I have lost three homes to wildfires, one in 1988, one in the October 2003 wildfires here in San Diego County, and another in the October 2007 wildfires, also here in San Diego County. Two of the homes were owned with some friends and used as getaway homes. The other one was my main home at the time.

The interesting thing is that I was born, raised, and lived along the Gulf Coast in Texas, Hurricane Coast, for 38 years. I survived many hurricanes, including Hurricane Beulah in 1967, Celia in 1970, Allen in 1980, Alicia in 1983, Bonnie in 1986, Gilbert in 1988, and Jerry in 1989. No one in my immediate family ever had a home damaged by wind or rain until 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. A sister, a niece, and a nephew in Chalmette, New Orleans, and Slidell, respectively, all lost their homes to the Katrina flood, and another sister in Slidell had four feet of water in her home but the home was salvageable. I’m the only one who has lost a home to fire, though.

So where would I rather live, Gulf Coast in Texas with hurricanes and tornados (not to mention summer heat, humidity, and bugs, and those darn Northers in the winter) or Pacific Coast in San Diego with earthquakes and wildfires? I’ll take San Diego any day of the week, although it’s weird to have an annual Fire Season. It’s also weird to have the whole world shaking in an earthquake, although big earthquakes are few and far between in any one area.

In 38 years in Texas, I went through 15 hurricanes or major tropical storms. In 18½ years in San Diego, I’ve been through two wildfires and a few billion earthquakes. Only four earthquakes were felt, most significantly the 7.2 earthquake that occurred on Easter Sunday 2010 just a hundred miles east of me. The shaking here in La Mesa went on for about twenty seconds, but I have everything earthquake proofed, so nothing fell out of cabinets, off of shelves, or off the walls.

And for the record, I do believe that animals know when Mother and Father Nature are going to have a spat. Zoey the Cool Cat was Zoey the Psycho Cat for about five minutes before the shaking began on Easter Sunday, and her psycho abilities also predicted a significant aftershock a month later.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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24 thoughts on “All that’s left

    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I hear about your “bushfires” occasionally. The wind, rain, temperature, and type of vegetation there is almost identical to here. In fact, our eucalyptus trees here came from there back in the 1850s. Our brush in the boondocks is mostly manzanita, and eucalyptus and manzanita are simply fire bombs waiting to go off in a good fire.

        1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

          Most of our wildfires are started by firebugs. The interesting thing is that Fire Season starts June 1. So let’s be serious here. Is there any difference between June 1 and May 31? Or May 30? Or even May 29, 28, or 27? No. We never have any fires in May, but as soon as the newspeople announce the start of fire season, we have six or seven fires on June 1. Quit announcing stuff like that!

          1. tchistorygal

            Good point, Russel Ray! I never thought about that before. I can’t believe that you’ve lost three homes! How heartbreaking! You have lived through some scary stuff! Makes me admire you all the more. I hope you had a great Christmas, and are doing well. :)

  1. patinaandcompany

    Wow, no wonder you are concerned about fires! Growing up on Vancouver Island, periods of fire hazard were declared for large chunks of the summer every year as well (you can imagine the devastation that could occur with the density of forest in some areas) and frequent shaky ground was not such an unusual event either.
    You have certainly had way more than your share of house fires!
    Have a wonderful holiday and New Year.

  2. Bashar A.

    Very informative… I’ve always thoughts animals can sense those things for some reason. I was going to say isn’t this a bit depressing for this of the year?? :) But then it was originally posted on the 23rd so never mind :)

    Wishing you & Jim a happy holiday season… Merry Christmas if you celebrate :)

    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      Thanks, Bashar.

      I went with this because the remnants of the house is the fireplace. More fires happen each year during Christmas time from fireplace fires, candle fires, and too-many-Christmas-light-strings-plugged-into-one-outlet fires.

  3. Jennifer Flint ~ The Aura Reader

    Wow, you’ve been through a lot over there! I was in the Loma Prieta earthquake in Berkeley in ’89, as well as the big fire in the hills shortly after, and both were pretty wild. I moved to Maine to get away from earthquakes, but we had one in October here, too (smallish), so there goes that theory. It is a good deal rarer out here, though, thankfully.


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