Ramona Municipal Water District
Cedar Fire Hearings, January 2004

Transcript Index

Note on Transcription and Redaction

  All names have been replaced with pseudonyms and all addresses have been removed. Please see this link for conventions and other information about the transcripts.

Session 1

Robert Krysak - "This committee was formed by myself as chairman of the RMWD at the urging of the Mussey Grade Road Alliance with the purpose of securing public input from individuals who suffered losses in the Cedar Fire and establish a factual representation of the timing and occurrences of the Cedar Fire, which ravaged portions of our community."
Diane Conklin - "
At least 106 homes of the 190 Ramona homes that were destroyed in the Cedar Fire were located along Mussey Grade Road.  I am speaking here tonight on behalf of the Alliance and those who lost their homes. "
Carla - "
If we hadnít have helped each other you would have a big pile of people that were dead because there was no warning and they knew seven hours and they also knew that they didnít stop it at the end it would spread. "
Diego - "
Itís pretty rough when youíve got a family of five and going through all the stuff, headaches dealing with the insurance, itís so bad Iím paying a mortgage down there, thereís nothing there but ashes and Iím paying my rental house here because my insurance wonít kick in for that and let me tell you, thatís drastic headaches."
Francis - "
Maybe Iím wrong but our recollection is that our first call about the fire was around 4:00, 4:15, 4:30, something like that."
Ida - "
So I said hey we have 15 boy scouts and weíre going to camp them on the knoll tonight, is this a safe thing to do?  And he said oh yeah, itís actually in Cedar Creek, itís way out there, donít worry about it all"
Jerome - "
Iíve lived [on Mussey Grade] for sixty five years so Iíve seen several fires go through the area all around in the last years and Iíve never seen any that went as hard and fast as this one."
Karl - "
They [the sherriff and highway patrol] were up looking at the fire, yes and I ...was asking them well, this looks pretty bad, whatís going on and they said itís over in the San Diego Country Estates and I think I remarked, 'well I donít think itís over there anymore.'"
Lee - "
This was our fourth evacuation from our house.  Fire department has always been there before, either CDF or the fire department, theyíve always been there to help, tell us that we needed to be evacuated.  Most of the time theyíll use Mussey Grade as a dividing line, as a place where they can make their stand because they can go up Laurel Lane, they can go up Kimball, they can hit the fires from the sides and then they can make their stand on Mussey Grade, this time there was nothing. "
Martha - "
Iím the person who signed the papers to turn our area over to the water district to be incorporated for fire protection because I was fire chief at the time and Iím really sorry I did that because we had no fire protection during this fire."
Sam Mitchell - "
Iím Sam Mitchell and Iím Chairman of the Planning Group.  A friend of mine lived in Eucalyptus Hills, he was ordered to evacuate and on the way out he stopped by a group of firemen and he said, ďwhat are you going to do,Ē and he was told, ďwe have our orders, let it burn.Ē  He did a u-turn and went back to work saving his home, which he managed to do."

Session 2

Diane Conklin - "Iíve discovered and I think that other groups have discovered this, fire victims are reluctant to come forward.  They do not want to talk about it.  They want to forget it."
Olivia - "
Thereís one interesting article that I would like to tell you about.  It was on a fire in 1984 and it was in the... San Diego Union [Tribune]:  

While Fernbrook residents were concerned about their homes and belongings, many seemed resigned to living with brush fires.  'We were worried at first until the trucks came' said [Oliviaís husband] who watched the fires sweep by on every side of the road on the 160-acre ranch.  'When youíve got a dozen trucks out there and all these troops it makes you feel pretty good.  We wouldnít want to be alone in something like this.'

Pete - "When I retired from the fire service some neighbors would come to me and ask me for some advice on how to protect their property and I would tell them I only had one thing to tell you, Iím only going to give you one piece of advice, and that is when you design the protection, fire protection for your home and your family, do it with one thought in mind, the fire service, the fire department doesnít exist, theyíre not going to come."
Ryan - "At our house for a little while and the fires come through like every year down there and there has always been fire trucks and CDF, they always come down, we waited for light to come and hoping that the planes would come and they never did.  If it wasnít for our neighbors and the community I think it would have turned out much more tragic than it did.  Then come to find out that I guess the main fire missed our house and at like maybe 2:00 in the afternoon I had reports my house was still standing and just little backfires set in and it took the house out"
Thomas - "I immediately, with my neighbor, grabbed my hose, and I have a pretty good pressure out of my hose, fought her fire.  The fire line came up to our house within ten feet and then when we were there we finished putting out the rest of the fire.  Thereís lots of embers and lots of structures still on fire at that time, smoldering"
Victor - " It was a new home there were no vents on the east side of the house.  The eves were entirely stucco, tile roof, I had the vents in the roof plugged on the east side of the house in case any hot gases got into that house from the windward side of the house, I grew the groundcover which worked, it got singed but itís still there, itís alive. The fire did not reach my house... I was there to see my house with the roof on fire totally intact so the fire did not burn the house... I had quarter inch tempered glass windows on the fire side of the house.  Iíve grown up in California, I know what Santa Ana winds are, I know what fires are..."
William - "I think this was probably around midnight or after, one of the firemen came up and says, ďyou have to evacuate right now,Ē and I was out hosing things down knowing it was kind of futile and I said, ďwell Iím trying to hold on until we get some fire trucks up hereĒ and he said, ďthere arenít going to be any fire trucks."
Zelma - "so we come rushing up to this gate and it was locked, needless to say on the other side of the gate were two cars, one was a woman with four children in it crying her eyes out because they couldnít get through the gate, it was locked, behind her was another car with some friends in another home so it was two families there and they were just stopped."
Archie - "
By 1:30 the fire crested that mountain and came down the side of the mountain.  I was standing there in flat-footed amazement with my mouth hanging open because it burned from the top to the bottom in ninety seconds flat, it was the most incredible thing I had ever seen.  At that point we said okay, weíre out of here, weíre not waiting for anybody to tell us."

Session 3

Diane Conklin - "To the district we say once again it is imperative that you write a fair, balanced and informed report based on the individual testimonies you have heard and will hear again this evening and send this report on to the commissions investigating the fire."
Christopher - "
The one fireman that I talked to said, ďif we had been able to get a truck up there at the last minute,Ē he said, ďweíd had lost the truck and the firemen along with your house.Ē  Now, I canít judge on that and I canít deny it.  Iíd never seen anything like it in my life.  The fire was probably, I would judge, a quarter of the mile, maybe a half a mile away, the actual fire, and the burning embers and the flying brush was coming across at almost a vertical, or horizontal I mean, level and that obviously is what hit the house."
Dale - "
At 9:15 it started to look like Vietnam, I was a Sergeant in the Marine Core in Vietnam and you donít put a private in charge when you want to fight a battle, you put a general in charge, basically in my opinion thereís a lot of privates in charge, they didnít make the right calls.  Of course Iím taking a lot of anger out here but when you get burned out then thereís some anger to be vented, I appreciate you being here to listen to it."
Gilbert - "
So I got dressed and I went out there and I worked the Scripps Ranch Fire for the rest of the day.  I conducted evacuations, I directed traffic, I maintained perimeter security and I even fought some fires with garden hoses.  I knew deep down inside that my house was gone but I kept hoping that some miracle might have occurred and my house was saved."
Isaac - "
No, my house did not burn.  I stayed as my family evacuated to do what I could for my home and my neighbors if the fire jumped Dos Picos or Mussey Grade Roads.  I did this with confidence since I am a retired fire fighter after serving the City of Poway for twenty-one years.  I also knew that my fellow fighter, fellow fire fighters would be facing conditions that you only see once in a career and response equipment to our area might be slim, if at all due to five major fires burning in Southern California"
Judy - "
We finally got out of there about 7:00, 7:30 and we got in the long line on Mussey Grade with everybody going three miles an hour, some people holding their horses and walking them and it took, and I have to say, and Iíve mentioned this before, we all must have learned something in elementary school, donít panic, donít run because you should have seen everybody on Mussey Grade Road, everybody had things packed up and were in an orderly manner just like we were in grade school."
Kathleen - "
I ran and got the phone for my husband and he called, 4:37... the fire was notified at 4:37."
Leon - "
When I first moved out there I was informed that we had had a volunteer fire department called the Buzzard Gulch Volunteer Fire Department down on Mussey Grade Road and there were a number of my neighbors who were members of it who were familiarized and trained in fighting fires, we had an engine Iím informed of, we had people who were trained in medical emergencies and that Iím also told at some point when I assume the Ramona Municipal Water District took jurisdiction over that area, the Buzzard Gulch Volunteer Fire Department was told to disband..."
Joseph Mitchell - "
On the first day of the fire which is Saturday, October 25th, in the early afternoon I did the first full tests of our fire protection system, we just had our back up generator installed on Friday and I turned the thing on to make sure it worked.  It consists of thirty-two outwardly [directed] nozzles mounted into our boxed in eves and I chose that particular configuration to actually provide ember, fire brand dousing capability in high wind conditions..."
Diane Conklin - "
I watched the report of that Fallbrook Fire over and over again and I watched what happened there were trees next to the houses that burned but the houses themselves, I mean there were trees next to houses that burned but the trees themselves were not burning, they were positioned on a cliff overlooking a valley, they were on a chimney and the fire just traversed those houses, one after another, after another.  So I went down to Fallbrook and I looked at the conditions to see how they matched up against our own conditions and they were very similar, we are also on a chimney so then I realized that in fact, it was important for us to do something"
Mack - "
As we were loading in the car the police went screaming by down Mussey Grade and you could just barely hear them actually.  Because we were outside and heard them and he was just yelling, ďget out, get out, get out,Ē as he went by about fifty miles and hour and I thought well you know if I hadnít been awake and outdoors it would have done no good and I could tell he was really afraid, it was the first time I really heard fear in a policemanís voice and he was scared, and he was gone"
Renee - "
around probably 6:30 or whatever, thereís our neighbors son all looking charred up with his truck standing there crying and crying because his dad is busy still fighting the fire and heís wondering if he should go back but heís all charred up and weíre saying no you canít go but he wants to go and we look up and yep, the house is all smoked out, we said listen, you stay here, weíre going to drive up and see if we can help"


Prepared by the Mussey Grade Road Alliance for public dissemination

Joseph Mitchell
January 1, 2005