October 22nd, 2007

San Diego is on Fire

I’m from San Diego. Specifically, a suburb named Poway. Four years ago nearly to the day, Poway was ravaged by the Cedar fires—the worst fire in San Diego’s history. Some stats on that fire:

  • 273,246 acres burned
  • 113 injuries
  • 15 deaths
  • The fire spread at a rate of 3600 acres per hour in the first 36 hours.
  • 2,232 homes destroyed
  • 53 homes damaged
  • 22 commercial properties destroyed
  • 566 additional structures destroyed
  • Estimated Cost to fight the fire: More than $31 million dollars

San Diego is on fire again. For up to date information on the (at present, eight) fires going on, go to this website.

At the time of writing this, there are massive ongoing evacuations. The fire is only a few miles from my parents’ home. My Aunt and Uncle who live in a nearby town have already evacuated. There is one reported death, and some injuries. Some have already said that this fire is worse than the Cedar fire four years ago.

My mother, the Deputy Mayor of Poway, was called several times last night while giving a fireside in a local Utah community by other city officials requesting she return home immediately. She had to bump up her flight today, and has now arrived home to take action. I’m sure my brothers, like they were in the Cedar fire, are at the shelter or line of fire, lending a hand where possible.

Please keep those affected in your prayers. They’ll be needing it as the hours go by, and the fire marches on.

UPDATES: (most recent at bottom)

  • My cousin James just posted some pictures.
  • This website is also a great resource for up to the minute information on the situation.
  • Wow… check out the satellite images showing the smoke.
  • Here’s one resident’s description of what’s going on.
  • Also check out a local news channel live feed with the latest updates.
  • This map shows the Poway evacuation area – the red dot is my parents’ home.
  • The Red Cross has some helpful information regarding the fires.
  • Weather.com has some photos worth checking out.
  • Here are a bunch of video clips about the fire.
  • Facebook users: get updates here.
  • Here’s a Flickr album with a bunch of pictures of the fire.
  • Check out this google map overlayed w/ burn area, fire locations, and evacuation center locations
  • Latest stats:
    Witch fire: 145,000 acres and zero percent contained. The cause is under investigation.
    600 structures have been destroyed (500 residences, 50 outbuildings, 100 commercial properties)
    300 structures have been damaged (250 residences, 75 commercial properties and 50 outbuildings)
    Seven injuries to firefighters; one civilian injury
  • CBS has a partial list of homes that have been confirmed to have been destroyed by fire.
  • Here’s another google map with some good data.
  • My mother and two of my brothers spent all day yesterday (10/22) at the Poway Community Center, one of the evacuation zones. After 4-5 hours of sleep, they’re back at the center for another day’s work. The Red Cross is spread very thin, so there is little support for Poway. If you live in the community and can help out, please go to the community center to lend a hand. They’re also in need of clean clothing, diversion materials (games, sudoku, magazines, etc.), and new, unopened medicine (ibuprofen, tums, benadryl, eyedrops, chapstick, etc.).
  • In addition to a map, this website by SignOnSanDiego.com provides some great detailed data (see below the map).
  • Press releases for Poway can be found here.
  • Those who live nearby can find out how to help here.
  • See the wind patterns for Southern California.
  • Here are some aerial shots from NASA.
  • One news report estimates that over half a million people have now been evacuated from their homes.
  • SignOnSanDiego.com has a blog running with frequent updates.
  • View the air quality in San Diego.
  • If you use Google Earth, you can download a .kmz file showing overlays of fire data using MODIS data.
  • Lots of information provided here by SDSU.
  • My cousin Chad created this map, sing data from cbs8.com, showing houses that have burned down in Rancho Bernardo. (UPDATE: This map is incomplete. A more recent list of affected properties can be found here (PDF).)
  • Current damage toll: 1,250 homes destroyed, 241,000 acres burned. (via signonsandiego.com)
  • A primary damage assessment has been conducted in Poway. The result is this list (PDF) of known lost structures (burned homes/buildings)
  • The LDS Church has sent six truckloads of supplies to help the victims of these fires.
  • CNN has an interactive map showing the status of the various fires.
  • The state has put together this website for the fires.
  • Update from my dad:
    We are all fine. No additional evacs in Poway. People may get to go back home (poway) tomorrow. Fires have moved past and others are dealing with that hardship now. Poway lost about 100 homes. Rancho Bernardo about 400. I think somewhere about 1000 in the county so far. We are ok, just tired. Lots to do… We are 99.9% out of danger now.
  • The Google blog has a list of various maps for the fire.
  • Latest stats from CNN: 1 million evacuees, 400,000+ acres burned, ~1500 homes destroyed.
  • Poway residents:
    If you are safe and are looking for a way to help out today, Merrilee Boyack (my mother, the Deputy Mayor) says that they are in need of volunteers to do a number of things at the Poway Community center. Look for Merrilee at the Community center, or give her a call on her cell to ask what you can do. 858-354-6703
    POWAY EVACUATION CENTER IS NOT IN NEED OF ANY DONATIONS NOW. They are only accepting cash donations to hold against further needs.
  • This is the first “firenado” I’ve ever seen.
  • Just got off the phone w/ my mother. She said this situation is much different from four years ago. In the Cedar fire, those affected were primarily poor people, and so there was a lot of need afterwards. Few had insurance, and so a lot of families were in need of help. This time around, those affected in Poway were mostly well-to-do people in nice neighborhoods, so they (I’m assuming) all have insurance and are taking care of themselves. Only one fire victim from Poway went to the evacuation center (there were three centers at first, now they’re consolidating down to one). All the people from Ramona are still evacuated – the power went out, and so did the water pump, so the firefighters haven’t been able to use the water there to combat the flames. Things are calming down a bit, and most of Poway has opened back up to residents.
  • San Diego residents: register your phone number with the Reverse 911 system.
  • Here’s a compelling night shot of the skyline near the naval base.
  • Officials believe that an arsonist is the cause of the fires.
  • Two bodies were found in a burned Poway home. The death toll now stands at three.
  • Here’s a news article about some of the losses in Poway.
  • The wikipedia page for the fires already has an extensive amount of data.
  • This page shows some pictures I received in an email this morning (thanks Kenneth). Very compelling.
  • Here’s an MSNBC.com slideshow from the fires.
  • MSNBC.com also has an interactive map w/ info on the fires.

23 Responses to “San Diego is on Fire”

  1. Connor
    October 22, 2007 at 1:58 pm #

    I’m updating this blog post as I find various links and updated information on the subject. Please view the bottom of the post for the latest.

  2. Anne Bradshaw
    October 22, 2007 at 4:35 pm #

    This is awful to follow, but I want to keep in the picture as we have old friends in the San Diego area and their email must be down (McKinney family). Just followed the link over to your cousin’s blog and saw the scary photos. Not good.

    You don’t know me and my husband, but we want to tell you our prayers are with you all. We have two sons further up the coast, one only recently moved (thank goodness) from up the canyon north of the Malibu area.

    Thanks for keeping everyone posted on this.

  3. Curtis
    October 22, 2007 at 5:28 pm #

    I live in San Diego and am at work at UCSD Medical Center right now. Our burn unit is full as you can imagine. They are close to evacuating Solana Beach right now. I live in Clairemont myself and had to be evacuated last time (4 years ago), but seem to be safe currently. I think my bosses home in Rancho Bernardo has burned down. I hope that Connor’s relatives in Poway are safe. I heard that there were several multi-million dollar homes burning there. The wind is very strong with the Santa Anna winds bringing in dry hot winds. There are 100,000 evacuees expected at Qualcomm stadium tonight. Many of our worthy young men in the 12th ward are heading down there to set up tents for the displaced. It’s truly an ugly situation.

  4. Josh Williams
    October 22, 2007 at 6:33 pm #

    Prevent house fires; don’t build in dry forests or grasslands….

  5. Desechado
    October 22, 2007 at 7:35 pm #

    Better yet… learn from the past 100 years when we didn’t allow the undergrowth and bush growth that we do now. One day people will wonder why we allow kindling to grow wild.

  6. Brandon
    October 22, 2007 at 7:38 pm #

    Your aunt and uncles neighborhood was hit really hard. I haven’t been able to figure out if their house was burned, but many in their immediate neighborhood were. Most of central Poway seems to be safe, so your parents should be fine, but the edges of town have been hit really hard. Old Coach, Bridlewood and Green Valley have all lost a lot of homes. I still not sure about my parents house, but I know that the hill was burning next to them with some reports that firefighters may have saved the houses in their neighborhood. I hope your family is all safe and watched over.
    To Josh – Thanks for the sensitivity! These are people’s lives and homes, not just some imaginary event far away. You’re pathetic if you think it is acceptable to spit in their faces while they are down on the ground.

  7. Desechado
    October 22, 2007 at 7:42 pm #

    Does anybody share the frustration I have with not being able to access favorite fishing and hunting areas because of excessive vegitation? A firefighter once told me that a home in the middle of an overgrowth of scrub oak is a nightmare waiting to happen.

  8. Connor
    October 22, 2007 at 7:42 pm #


    Thanks for the update, man. Kathe and Dennis (my Aunt and Uncle, for those who don’t know my family) have been at my parents’ house all day. Apparently they didn’t have much time to grab things, so all they were able to get was a few pictures and a laptop.

    Let that be a lesson to us all. Make a list of things to take in case of evacuation, prioritized by importance, and at the first sign of trouble, no matter the chances of being able to stay, go pack your car!

    Yeah, my parents are fine. In fact, our ward’s boundaries are pretty much the only part of Poway that has yet to be evacuated. Crazy. I hope your parents’ house makes it out okay.

    Jacob Davies started this Facebook group to keep tabs on everything.. they recently posted this update:

    Homes of Friends Destroyed in the Poway Area:
    Brunson (Green Valley Estates), Mangum (Old Coach), Lockyear, DeGuzman (RB)

    Homes the Fire Passed By:
    Sabin (fire burned all around it), Hawkes, Meacham, Hamilton, Huish (Brunson’s across the street burned)

    Yikes. Hope this ends quickly…

  9. salth2o
    October 22, 2007 at 9:20 pm #

    How on earth could so many fires start at one time? It’s bizzare- 8 fires. no lightening, just the Santa Ana winds to fuel the fire. I grew up in SD, my family is there, my friends are there- such a beautiful town. I hope everyone’s loved ones are ok.

  10. Curtis
    October 22, 2007 at 11:14 pm #

    The Witch fire is now at 145,000 acres with a low-ball estimate of 500 homes burnt to the ground so far and with 0% containment. Santee is being threatened by a finger of the Witch fire. West of Santee is Tierra Santa (which was also hit 4 years ago) and west of Tierra Santa is Clairemont. The winds are not expected to die down until Thursday! We now have 16 burn patients at UCSD. Some are quite severely burned. We are being told that this will get worse before it gets better.

  11. Dan
    October 23, 2007 at 7:29 am #


    How on earth could so many fires start at one time?

    a number of factors, cigarettes being one of them.

  12. Curtis
    October 23, 2007 at 8:02 am #

    The biggest fire, the witch creek fire, was apparently started by a blown transformer.

  13. Curtis
    October 23, 2007 at 4:30 pm #

    Estimated Cost: More than $31 million dollars

    It would also be accurate to say it was more than one dollar, but I suspect the damage was a bit more than 31 million. That would cover about 50 average cost homes in San Diego these days.

    I just found out that my kids will be out of school for the rest of the week. 4 kids at home will be my wife’s biggest trial so far. Our ward is organizing donations to send to Qualcomm Stadium.

    We have word that President Bush will be touring here on Thursday the 25th. Though we are a red city in a blue state, there were quite a few negative comments regarding his visit on the San Diego Union Tribune Newspaper website.

    Amazing how people can find the time to bicker under the circumstances. Air quality is bad here. We are going outside with masks and rags on our faces, only if absolutely necessary.

    I’ve heard that the evacuee numbers now total over 500,000 people. Wow.

  14. Connor
    October 23, 2007 at 4:32 pm #

    …I suspect the damage was a bit more than 31 million.

    Sorry for the confusion – that was the cost of fighting the fire, not the cost of damage incurred. I’ve updated the post to reflect that.

    Stay safe, Curtis.

  15. Jay
    October 23, 2007 at 6:13 pm #

    Connor, I was just wondering about the original stats at the top which reported over 2200 homes destroyed and 15 deaths. As of this afternoon, Governor S said that there were approximately 750 homes destroyed and only one death.

    I was not confused about the cost of the fire. Simple logic would tell me that it was about the cost of fighting the fire, not the estimated damage, which will definitely be in the billions.


  16. Jay
    October 23, 2007 at 6:15 pm #

    I am in Redlands, not far from Arrowhead. We have lots of smoke and ash here, but are far from the fires. Evacuees are coming down the hill and camping nearby and I know that the local missionaries are doning Red Cross badges and helping out. My daughter works for Jamba Juice and just got back from delivering 800 cups of smoothies to the local evacuees. Traffic around here is awful. Even being somewhat removed from the fires, we’re seeing a lot of the fallout.


  17. Connor
    October 23, 2007 at 6:16 pm #


    The stats at the top refer to the Cedar fire which was exactly four years ago.

  18. Jay
    October 23, 2007 at 9:58 pm #

    Oops! I misread that. Thanks.


  19. Curtis
    October 24, 2007 at 8:29 am #

    Thanks Connor,

    Last night I was mobilizing the kids to get some donations to Qualcomm Stadium, and checked the fireblog to find out that to the great credit of the people of San Diego, the stadium had closed down donations for the day as they had too much already! I’m not sure how many evacuees are at Qualcomm. I’ve heard of 100,000 people being there. It is great to see this town rally to help the dispossessed in this situation. I’ve heard there are bands at the stadium and a very good atmosphere of brotherly love and service. In this instance, I’m proud to be a member of this community.

  20. Curtis
    October 28, 2007 at 11:47 pm #

    What your mom says is true. I can’t help but to contrast the evacuee situation in San Diego with the refugee situation coming out of Iraq (4 million people in and out of Iraq as I last heard). Their situation is infinitely worse than ours here in San Diego. We created their situation and yet refuse to allow them refuge in the USA.

    Our Stake is requested to send volunteers to help clean up this week in Poway/Rancho Bernardo. Apparently 18 member households in the Poway Stake had their homes destroyed by the fire. And no, the Stake President’s home is still intact (in spite of some rumors going around). Many from our stake have signed up to help. This is not going to be a one weekend service project. President Heap (who spoke at our Stake Priesthood meeting tonight) of the San Diego North Stake was very animated about the destruction he had witnessed in Poway recently and told very moving stories about the 600 yellow t-shirted LDS volunteers helping out yesterday in Poway.

    President Heap noted how great it is to see the San Diego community coming together under these tragic circumstances.

    Going back to the contrast though… Most of these people have lost a lot (the ones who were burned out of home) but most of us have merely experience an annoyance in having to keep the kids home from school for a week etc. Those who were burned out will struggle with insurance companies trying to do the cheapskate thing with them, but this is no comparison to what the Iraqis are going thru. There is a good woman in Iraq who has been blogging since the start of the war and now has been forced at last to flee to Syria. Recently she wrote of how it finally hit her that she is a refugee. Please see her writing here:


  21. Curtis
    November 9, 2007 at 6:37 pm #


    I work with a lady at UCSD medical center whose home was burned down named Bernadette. She’s Chaldean. Anyway, I asked her how she’s doing today and she said she has a sweet mormon lady to take care of her. She says that she gets anything Bernadette needs such as pots and pans etc. and that she is a saint and an angel and she had no end of praise for this woman. As you can perhaps guess, this woman is your mother. Connor, you should be proud of your heritage. Please thank your mother for me for helping this lady that I love and work with for over 4 years now. God bless you and your family.

  22. Connor
    November 9, 2007 at 9:20 pm #


    Wow, that’s quite a story. I’m glad to hear that a connection like that was made. I’ve forwarded the email to my mother. FYI, she’s been regularly posting relief updates (for victims and volunteers alike) at her website.

    Thanks for your comment.

  23. Curtis
    November 9, 2007 at 11:54 pm #

    Come to think of it, one of my bosses, a Dr. Anne Laux also lives out there and was not burned down but on a separate occasion was singing your mother’s praises in the fire relief efforts. Dr. Laux was also quite pleased with some mormon teenage boys who offered to help her with her horses during the evacuation. Your mom definitely has a good name among my acquaintances.

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