I have a beautiful view out my living room window of the East San Diego County. Whenever I need a break from the office and binge-watching Netflix and PrimeTV (currently watching “Lie To Me”), I’ll walk to the living room, pet Little Queen Olivia (she’s usually on the sofa), and then look out the window to see what wildlife is thinking that my plants might be a good buffet. At 3:45 p.m. on September 7, this was the view that greeted me:
The thermometer on Little Queen Olivia’s shaded catio was showing 110 effin degrees.
Little Queen Olivia was, like “Meh. Why do you keep coming in here every 15 minutes?”
California has so many fires each year that they get names, kind of like hurricanes in the Gulf and Atlantic. This fire started in Japatul Valley, so it got named the Valley Fire. It started at 2:51 p.m. and burned 400 acres in the first hour, making it a very fast-moving and dangerous fire. It slowed due mostly to the fact that there’s not a lot of stuff to burn out there. The problem would be the continued high temperatures and the wind. Originally the winds were blowing to the west, so the fire was marching westward, straight towards me, the suburbs, and downtown San Diego.
By the end of the night, it had burned over 1,500 acres, continuing to march westward. I didn’t get much sleep that night since I was monitoring the overnight progress of the fire. Evacuation alerts were arriving regularly on my phone courtesy of the emergency notification system.
I had brought Little Queen Olivia’s travel crate in just in case we had to leave suddenly, and I had food and water packed and ready to go.
Yesterday morning when Little Queen Olivia got me out of bed, there was very little smoke in the air. That was good. Around 11:30 a.m., the winds shifted direction, blowing the fire to the west/southwest, causing a new smoke plume that lasted all day.
That was good for me but bad, of course, for people in front of its new advance. Here at my house, I was expecting a high temperature of 113 effin degrees. The heavy smoke eventually covered the sky, blocking out the sun, so it only got to 108 effin degrees.
Fire smoke always makes for great sunset pictures. Well, almost. Since the sun was blocked out, there was no sunset. This was the best picture I got—5:11 p.m., exactly two hours before sunset:
There is no sign of smoke this morning from my living room window due to the east-blowing winds. As of 10:00 p.m. last night, over 10,500 acres had burned; it is only 1% contained. Eleven structures have burned. The fire continues to rage. Evacuation warnings have been extended to the east. In the map below, I live in Winter Gardens (red arrow).
Pets are welcome at evacuation points. If you need help with animal evacuations, including large animals, call the San Diego Humane Society’s emergency response team at 619-229-7012 and press 1. Large animals will be held at the County Animal Services South Shelter in Bonita (lower left).
For a historical perspective, the 2003 Cedar Fire here in San Diego County burned 273,246 acres , destroyed 2,820 buildings (2,232 homes), and killed 15 people, including one firefighter. At the time, it was the largest wildfire in California’s history. After the 2018 and 2019 fire seasons (only California would actually have a “fire season”), the Cedar Fire now ranks as the third-largest, the fifth deadliest, and fourth most destructive, causing just over $1.3 billion in damages.
The Cedar Fire was started by a novice hunter, hunting alone, who had gotten lost. He admitted starting a fire intentionally to signal rescuers but quickly lost control of the fire because of the heat, low humidity, and low moisture content of the surrounding vegetation. He was rescued but prosecuted. After a plea bargain in which prosecutors dropped the charge of lying to investigators, he was sentenced to six months in a work-furlough program, 960 hours (40 days) of community service, five years’ probation, and $9,000 in restitution. If I had lost my home or a relative, I’m not sure I would have been satisfied with that sentence.