San Diego Firestorm 2003

Fire in Santee

Pictures taken October 26 - 28, 2003

A series of fire storms raged through southern California during October 2003. The fires in San Diego County were called the Cedar Fire, Paradise Fire, and Otay (o-tie) Fire. The fire closest to us, the Cedar Fire, was started on Saturday, October 25, by a "lost hunter" as a "signal" to his hunting partner.

We first learned about the fire at 7:00 AM on Sunday. At that time the fire was several miles away and seemed to be no problem, just another fire. By mid-day the fire moved farther south and we lost power. By now we knew that it was very serious.

This series of photos was taken between 4:30 and 5:30, when it was finally too dark to take photos without a tripod.

At about 4:30 PM I went up on the roof to check the progress of the fire. This is a view of the mountains to the north. The fire is about two miles away. Note all the smaller fires to the right of the main fire. Imagine how it looked to the people who lived at the bottom of the hill.

Looking north. This was a hugh flare-up just a few minutes later. I still don't know if it was a house or a large amount of brush. The fire is slowly working its way to the east and to the south toward Santee.

Again, looking north. The fire has become bigger and has moved farther east and south across the tops of the mountains.

Almost totally dark now. The fire is moving down the south side of the mountain and seems to be fully engulfed. All of the people living within a mile or so have been evacuated.

We've started to pack our valuables and expect to be told to leave.

Looking west toward West Hills, two miles away, at about 4:30. The fire is just coming across the top of the mountain.

Looking west just a few minutes later. The fire has grown immensely.

This fire almost burned right down to the doorstep of West Hills High School. Fortunately, there is a 4-lane street between the hills and the school, which the fire did not cross.

This picture was taken earlier in the day and shows the amount of ash that fell.

Tuesday, October 28. By now the fire had moved east about 20 miles and the smoke was blowing to the west, right over us. (The truck really is white.) This was the actual color of our world during the whole day.

By Wednesday the 29th the winds had shifted and came from the west, blowing the smoke back to the east. Thursday was a normal cool-temperature day, with winds from the west. However, the fires were still raging about 30 miles to the east, and to the north of us.

This spectacular photo of the mountains north of Santee was taken by Frank Laird.

The residents of Santee were very lucky; we only lost a couple of homes. Other areas weren't so lucky. Some communities were totally wiped out. Scripps Ranch suffered a tremendous loss, over 340 homes, maybe more.

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