“One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” is the continuing story about the loss of our home in the San Diego Witch Fire 2007. To read earlier chapters in this series, click on the links below:
Prologue – Any Way the Wind Blows
Chapter One – The Valley That Time Forgot
Chapter Two – Eye of the Storm
Chapter Three – In the Blink of an Eye
- Chapter Three.One – Too Far From Home (Tiffany’s story)
- Chapter Four – Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Chapter Five – In a Blue Funk
Chapter Six – Back to Square One
Coco isn’t doing too well in his new digs. Since we arrived at our in-laws home, he’s been either under the bed or under the covers. He’s deathly afraid of the family dogs and their two cats, forget it! He spits and hisses at them whenever they try to approach him to make friends. We are hopeful that maybe tomorrow will be better for him. I believe he understands our house is gone because we have taken him to our house site multiple times now and though he remains in the car (of course), he is up on the dashboard, looking out the windshield, watching us intently. Also, smoke permeates the air and with his superior sense of smell, I’m sure he knows.
It is Sunday, October 28th and one of Charlie’s sisters has contacted us and given us good news – firefighters had attempted to save our home, so had been on-site during the fire. Realizing that saving our home was not possible, because of gale-force 100 mph winds, they entered our burning home saving many treasures. They stored these treasures at our neighbor’s garage, who just happens to be our nephew. We make arrangements with our nephew to meet at his property to see our belongings. His home and detached garage had been spared in the firestorm.
When we arrive at our nephew’s home, we are astounded at the number of items saved by the firefighters. Numerous paintings and sculptures (primarily created by my father), a coffee table (with an opening lid, full of family photos and photo albums), a saddle belonging to my husband’s deceased uncle, an antique cabinet give to us by my husband’s aunt, our filing cabinet full of our personal papers, various knick-knacks and trinkets from tables, bookshelves, display cabinets, nine of our ten dining room chairs, an old storage cabinet that had belonged to my great-aunt, our wedding album and other scrapbook albums hidden in a closet, a box of letters and personal correspondence, guns and rifles that belonged to Charlie’s deceased father, an antique wagon (a gift from Charlie’s aunt), our John Deere tractor, tractor attachments, and John Deere Gator, our golf cart – the list is long. Many months later, I learn from one of the firefighters on scene that firefighters are trained to know what to look for that might have significance to the owners and they strive to make their choices count.
Also, later in the afternoon, we meet my girlfriend Zoe’s husband, Jim, and his friend at our property as previously planned. During the “rubble party” the day before, I had an overwhelming need to keep something, anything that survived the firestorm. Many of my beautiful glazed ceramic pots, in various shades of blue, survived because they are ceramic, thus “fired” in a kiln at great temperatures. Zoe recognized my anxiety and the abnormal emphasis of importance that I placed on these pots and graciously offered to keep these pots alongside her house, indefinitely. When you own practically nothing after being blessed by abundance, small things like these pots often become meaningful. The team (me, Charlie, Zoe, Jim and his friend) empty the charred plants and dirt from each pot and the two men loaded these pots, several of them quite heavy, into their SUV for the trip to Zoe’s house.
As the reality of our situation sinks in, we have our moments. Each time we visit our site, it’s like it just happened all over again and we are overwhelmed. Today is particularly difficult for the two of us and throughout the day, we break down three times when no one is looking.
We have been contacted by two catastrophic adjusters and they both arrive tomorrow from out-of-state (we have two insurance policies; one for our home and contents and one for our artwork). Once they arrive and settle in, they will contact us for an appointment. The fact that they are coming from Texas and New Jersey is sobering to me. We live in a rural environment and are about 35 miles from the city of San Diego. These adjusters are being sent by their respective insurance companies from out-of-state and one from the other side of the country, which must mean the resources for local area insurance professionals are strained from this catastrophe. One million people have been displaced and thousands of homes, buildings, automobiles and other property have been destroyed. In spite of all our technological advances as a society, Mother Nature still rules.
Fires are still burning in different parts of the county and the air is still heavy with smoke. Officials continue to suggest that people stay indoors as much as possible and off the major freeways to allow firefighters and other emergency personnel easier access to hot spots. There is now a coordinated effort underway by multiple emergency services (local, state, national, as well as military) to work together to contain the fires. Both President George Bush and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have visited our area, which has now been declared a “national disaster” by President Bush. Unbeknownst to us at the time, this declaration will help us find reasonably priced insurance coverage on our new home two years in the future.
I return to work tomorrow after being gone for a week. While I’m looking forward to some sort of normalcy in my life, I have to tell my boss, who has been most gracious and accommodating, that I will need additional time off when the adjusters arrive. My home site is more than an hour from my work, so commute time as well as time with the adjusters will probably translate to at least another half-day off. From a work perspective, this fire couldn’t have happened at a worse time because we are in the middle of developing a budget for the upcoming year plus we have a major company-wide event happening in early November, so plans are underway and there is much work to be done.
The following pictures were provided to me by one of the firefighters who attempted to save our home.
Fires raging through the canyons and valleys of our community.
The above photo includes Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Fire raging through dry brush creating endless clouds of debilitating smoke.
The series continues tomorrow with Chapter Eight – “Not Me! Why Me? Who Me? It’s Me…”
Until Next Time,