RMWD CEDAR FIRE HEARINGS

SESSION 2

 

Speakers:

Introduction

KitKessinger

DianeConklin

Mark

Olivia

Pete

RyanRenate

Sue

Thomas

Ulma

Victor

William

Zelma

Abby

Bob

 

 

Introduction

 

Bob Krysak:  Iíd like to welcome you to the second of our three public hearings that are being conducted by the Ramona Municipal Water District, fire ad hoc, Cedar Fire Ad Hoc Committee.  I am Bob Krysak, a member of the Ramona Municipal Water District Board of Directors, Iím also the President of the Board.  To my right is Kit Kessinger, heís also a member of the Board of Directors of the Water District and over there is Diane Conklin who is the head of the Mussey Grade Road Alliance.  This committee was formed by myself as chairman of the RMWD at the urging of the Mussey Grade Road Alliance with the purpose of security public input from individuals who suffered losses in the Cedar Fire.  To establish factual representation of the timing and occurrences of the Cedar Fire who ravaged certain portions of our community. I want to publicly thank Diane Conklin and the other members of the Mussey Grade Road Alliance who were instrumental in assisting this committee since itís inception and do so today and in the future.  The purpose of these meetings is not to cast any blame or aspersions upon any individual or any agency, any assessment that comes from these meetings will be contained in our report which we plan on assimilating after these meetings, after interaction with the CDF and that report will be provided to all agencies that are investigating the fire and may be the subject of future action by the Ramona Municipal Water District Board.  We are interested in timelines, stories of both official and neighborly assistance and self help during the fire or absence of those things, evacuation warnings, if any or non, and any damages suffered.  With this information and the resulting report we can hopefully gain an insight to not only what could have been done or should have been done but what we can do in the future to prevent the kind of losses that we suffered in this fire both as official agencies such as the water district, as CDF, as neighbors or as ourselves in this community.  The meeting today is being audio recorded for later evaluation and we will also be taking notes.  Thereís a pad in the back which we usually have speaker slips but they didnít provide us any this morning so if you could write your name and address on a speaker slip and come up and hand it to me, please.  You should have also received questionnaires in the mail that should help you either provide written information for this meeting or use as a model for your public presentation.  If you donít have one, there are also questionnaires on the back table there.  We want to get input from as many people as possible.  The last meeting was a little more crowded, this is a little less crowded at this point, but we anticipate people will be filtering in over the course of the next few hours but try to restrict your comments to fifteen minutes.  Again, we are primarily interested in what, when, who and where regarding the fires progress, official response or warning, and assistance provided by others or yourself.  Please do not be offended if we interrupt you with questions and dialogue because we want to be assured we have the information we need.  At this point Iíd like to ask Kit if he has any comments heíd like to make this morning.

 


Kit Kessenger:  Good morning.  Just want to thank you all for coming.  This is the second meeting and, of course, in the first meeting we got, Iíd say some eye opening information from the testimony that citizens like you provided and that information is going to be very helpful Iím sure to the agencies that are reviewing this fire on a regional and statewide level but itís also very helpful to us because as directors of the water district, we have to look at our own operations and how those can be improved to better serve the community in emergencies like this and other times and I know that although Iím reserving my final comments about our water operation, water sewer, and other operations that we are in charge of until we get all the testimony and also talk to some of the agencies that were involved.  I am getting an understanding and an impression of some of the things that we can improve in our own operations in the future and as a community.  Iíd like to thank you all for being here and for the comments that you provide and please feel free to speak and weíre all just neighbors and part of the community so no need to get nervous for any of those who tend to get nervous in front of a group.

 

Bob Krysak:  Weíre more nervous than you are.  Diane would you like to make a comment?

 


Diane Conklin:  Just for the record, Diane Conklin, 19412 Kimball Valley Road.  I want to thank the Ad Hoc Committee of the water board, director Krysak, President Krysak and Director Kessinger once again for this opportunity to get to the bottom of the Cedar Fire in terms of what occurred on the ground.  I have a four, five housekeeping items I would just like to bring up now.  I wanted to bring to the attention of the Ad Hoc Committee as well as the people sitting here that the letter that was sent out January 7, 2004.  You may have received this letter, it had a typographical error.  This error has been picked up by the Ramona Sentinel, the actual total number of homes in Ramona, the most recent numbers are 190 homes were destroyed in Ramona, within the Ramona community, well within the water district. I think this is within the Ramona Community Planning Area because this was an assessment done by the county and out of that 190, 106 homes down in the Mussey Grade area so if you saw 106 homes in the newspaper that was incorrect and I think that everyone should remember that weíre talking about 190 homes, thatís a lot of homes.  Secondly Iíd like to say that the President of the Water Board forwarded to me at my request a list of the names that the letter was sent to.  This list was procured through the county and it has addresses.  There are approximately 120 names on this list and so we are missing some 70 names.

 

Bob Krysak:  Those names are of people who live in the Ramona Municipal Water District, (inaudible).

 

Diane Conklin:  Let me continue, I think I can help on this.  We were going to send letters to everyone who had a home down, it wasnít within the district alone, I believe, but nevertheless what I wanted to say is that the one letter was sent collectively to the Mussey Grade Village.  Mussey Grade Village I believe is within the Ramona Municipal Water District and it is a place that has expanded over recent years.  I think the total occupancy is 103 mobile or modular homes and I know that the reports are that between 35 and 37 homes went down in the village so that would bring up this 120 to about 155 and we have some miscellaneous names that are missing, for example, perhaps it was because that the letters were sent only to those within the district but the point was to get timelines so that we could find out whatís going on. I myself was part of this process so Iím not complaining, Iím just saying that we are missing names so Iím going to try to get people to the next meeting from, from example, Kimball Valley where we have names like [five names] and others who all lost homes.  The third housekeeping itemÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  On the village, is there a way to get that list (inaudible)

We are working on that. (Inaudible).

 

Diane Conklin:  We are working on that.  We have a list of the addresses, I have that from David Greis but those addresses donít have phone numbers and so what we have done is put out flyers at the village.  Unfortunately people are no longer there so I think that what weíre going to have to content ourselves with is that if we have one or two representatives from the village at the Thursday meeting, we were supposed to have one today but she, her children are sick, so she may come on Thursday, weíre going to have to content ourselves with a sampling.  Weíre not going to have the full numbers representing all 190 homes.  That is what weíre going to have to content ourselves with.  I would like to say, however, 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.  I called some people on this list to see if I could get a hold of them and one woman told me, whoís living down in San Diego, I think she was an older woman, that she could not come here, she would cry.  She would not be able to talk about it and she did not want to talk about it.  Weíre going to have to content ourselves with a sampling but I think that people will be as accurate as possible and that sampling will be a good representation of what they suffered through.  So the answer is we are trying to contact.  The number three, I am just for the information of the group, receiving copies of all of the correspondence being sent to the Ramona Municipal Water District, in lieu of or in addition to personal statements made here at these hearings.  And the water district is sending these to me through President Krysak, I would like to tell everyone here, please, if you are going to submit a statement, please put your name and address, and date and sign the statement because many of these statements do not have names and that doesnít help and also I am missing some of the statements that I know have been turned in.  My neighbor [three names] I assume they came in after I got my package but I know some of these came to the water district, theyíre not coming back to the offices of Krysak and McNichols so weíll just see if we get all of those statements.  Also I will reserve as the spokesperson of the Mussey Grade Road Alliance on Thursday, an opportunity to make my own statement of course, and then present additional documentation that I think will be helpful to you including newspaper articles and so forth.  Finally, number four, I would ask today that you consider setting deadlines, realistic deadlines for the Ramona Municipal Water Districtís completion of the report.  Iím not saying when it should be done but if you can give the people here and the people out there in Ramona who are reading the newspaper articles and the coverage of this, some idea of when you think it would be feasible for you to have your report completed, it could be three weeks from now, it could be a month from now, it could be two days from the end of the hearings, whenever you think itís feasible and that would be helpful so that people would know that the report is actually going to be done and then if you could announce, I think it would be helpful to the group on Thursday, where the report will be sent.  You may not have a conclusive or complete list, but it may, itís good to have some idea so it would be the Governorís Commission, whatever and where that goes.  Also Iíd like to ask you thirdly, in addition to the date of a conclusion or a completion of the report, where itís going to be sent, how people can secure a copy of the report, what cost there would be, so forth, and where they should go to get it.  Finally I also would ask, this is a fourth issue on number four and this is my last one, if youíd be so kind as to give people a date or time when you will take up the second stage of the hearings which would be, what we requested initially which would be the review of the contract with CDF for any possible breach.  It would be very good to know if this would be taken up at a normal water board meeting and what date you may see that as coming into your agenda.  Thatís the final thing and thank you very much.

 

Bob Krysak:  On the public hearing issues, no I wonít give a timeline of the official report because we donít know when that will be, I canít say that right now.  As you know, we will sit down after the last meeting and will determine a timeline with your cooperation (inaudible).  Regarding any kind of breach of contract, we havenít determined yet whether that will be any agenda item on the meeting board.  Again, we havenít gotten all the fact, we havenít made any assessments or preconceived notions yet, we will do the appropriate thing and everyone will be publicly noticed as is required by law.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).  With regard to the completion of the report, yes, that would be fine in terms of discussing it with us, however, the idea is that then we should like that to be made public, perhaps you could make it public at a Ramona Municipal District meeting.

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible)

 

Diane Conklin:  Itís just so people, actually the reason Iím suggesting that is because people will say to you, me, well whatís going to come of this and I think itís important that people be encouraged to come to these hearings understanding there is going to be a result and I know youíve announced it but the idea is if there is some kind of idea, that a date will be set for the completion of a report, then I think people have more hope that a report is actually going to be done.


Bob Krysak:  Well first of all, a report will be done and second of all it will be done as expeditiously as possible.  We know that everyone is watching us investigating the fires and we donít want to miss that.  We will finish as soon as possible.

 

Diane Conklin:  Okay and with regard to the second issue which is the consideration by the Ramona Municipal Water District board of the potential breach of contract with the CDF and looking into the arrangement with the CDF, I would just refer you back to the November 25th meeting where you enunciated the steps, I believe that was the second step that you said would be under taken after this first step which is the completion of the report and so forth.

 

Bob Krysak:  I think that is misrepresentation.  There was never any intent to proceed in any particular direction.  We will assemble the facts and determine  (inaudible).  And one of the things I have is (inaudible) whether or not CDF is our fire protection or whether or not we have a local fire department or whether or not we have a volunteer fire department, (inaudible).

 

Diane Conklin:  Right, that does get into the larger question of culpability and I understand that, nevertheless I think that itís important for the CDF contract to be looked into, if you determine at some stage in the future that you donít think that itís appropriate, we can always come back to the water board and request that it be done again.

 

Bob Krysak: (Inaudible)

 

Diane Conklin:  Right, well we would, excuse me, Iím sorry.

 

Bob Krysak:  A lot of issues we consider ever year when we decide to renew or not renew the contract and I (inaudible)

 

Diane Conklin:  When do you review the contracts?

 

Kit Kessinger:  Diane, I think we can get back to you with a date, when thatís coming up on an agenda.

 

Diane Conklin:  Well under any circumstances except for the date to be set for it to go on the agenda barring that we would probably come back to you.  Okay, thank you.

 

Bob Krysak:  All right, now weíd like to start.  I only have three speakersí slips here; I assume Iíll get more as we go through it.  Iíll start in no particular order, Olivia.  Iím sorry, one minute, Mark you had raised your hand to say something, Iím sorry.

 


Mark:  Thank you Bob, I apologize that this is just a big tangential but it may be helpful.  Iím the chairman of a local group called Ramona Disaster Group Outreach and we have been compiling lists of people with updated contact information as they have scattered throughout the county following the fire.  Weíve identified approximately 175 family heads if you will of the 190 that you referred to this morning and while we do need to protect the confidentiality of those people, if you do have holes in your information and do need to get information out, we do have a mailing list and we could assist you.  Although we could not give you that mailing list, weíd be happy to do that.  Also, I would just like to ask if there are any people here in the audience that are not familiar with RDO or have not signed up with us?  If youíd please contact me and we could step outside, weíd like to know about you, and weíd like to tell you about the helping information that we do have available.  So thank you for your time and I look forward to talking to any of you who would like to talk.

 

Kit Kessinger:  Mark you want to give your phone number or just leave it at that?

 

Mark:  Yes, we do have a 800 number that is not manned by a live person yet, weíre working on that, it does have a voice mail box, you can call 24 hours a day from anywhere, it is 1-800-559-5771.  We do check that regularly and if you do have questions, comments, concerns, if you want to volunteer to help, any of those things, give us a call, we will get back to you.

 

Bob Krysak:  All right, Olivia.

 


Olivia:  My name is Olivia.  I lived at [Mussey Grade Road].  My husband and I purchased the ranch in 1967.  We lived there almost thirty five years and we raised our three children there.  Our property is next to the City of San Diego, San Vicente Reservoir.  My story involves two of my children, their families, animals and homes.  They filled me in on times and happenings.  My son Oliver, whose wife Olga and their child, [], live at []next to [Barona Mesa Estates], they have lived there almost fifteen years.  All times are daylight savings times.  At 4:45 PM, October 25, 2003, Oliver saw the fire and Olga called 911.  The dispatcher said the fire had already been called in. []

 

Bob Krysak:  Excuse me Olivia (inaudible), is there any evidence that, your phone bill or anything shows that those 911 calls went in?

 

Olivia:  Well they said that it should be on 911, that they did call.

 

Bob Krysak:  Have they gotten their phone bill that shows that call on it?

 

Olivia:  I donít know if phone bills have those kinds of things.

 

Bob Krysak:  Yes they do.  They have directlyÖ

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Olivia:  Mine has long distance calls on my phone bill. 

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible)

 

Bob Krysak:  Okay so 4:45 on October 25th, Oliver called 911.

 

Olivia:  Olga called 911.  The dispatcher said that the fire had already been called in.  Olga and Oliver turned on their scanner.  My daughter-in-law has been deathly afraid of wildfires and always called me when they saw smoke and kept me informed.  Several years back they evacuated their horses to our ranch and then the fire came through Kimball Valley and we were in danger but the fire was put out by bombers and didnít get to us.  Oliver and Olga have always been prepared for fire, they have a 10,000-gallon storage tank, a large swimming pool with a pump, generator and 150 feet of large fire hose connected to the big tank.  On the scanner they heard that the fire trucks were staying at Pine Hills, were staging, Iím sorry, staging at Pine Hills and they also heard on the scanner that they were turning other equipment away from Pine Hills.  Oliver said that there was one hour of daylight left when they saw and reported the fire at 4:45 PM.  When they saw the fire they called me and at 6:00 PM they called me again and Oliver said heíd come and get my three horse trailer and alerted me to stand by.  He came at 9:00 PM and took the three-horse trailer.  At 11:00 PM he called and told me to get my two-horse trailer hitched and come over.  I got over to [Barona Mesa] the fire was close and we couldnít load the horses.  Olga, the baby, two dogs and three cats evacuated to my ranch at the end of Mussey Grade.  At 12:30 AM on Sunday they left [Barona Mesa], Sunday morning.  My daughter, Oprah, who lived at [SDCE] had been with me at a party at the ranch, at the Sueís..  Sue & family are my caretakers who lived on the ranch for eleven years.  Oprah had evacuated her dog from her ranch, I canít remember when and had been with us to drive vehicles and help us in the ordeal.  I left [Barona Mesa]  Oliver stayed at [Barona Mesa]and tried to get animal rescue to help him, no one responded and the fire was coming fast.  He turned his horses loose and left going through ninety feet of fifty-foot high flames on either side of the road.  He said he saw approximately thirty five trucks at the Casey Tibbs Western Center at San Diego Country Estates doing nothing.

 

Bob Krysak:  Did he say what time it was?

 

Olivia:  When he left, the time was 2:30 or 3:00 AM, he wasnít sure.  When Oliver left his home and he told me that not one emergency vehicle told him to evacuate and there was no assistance, whatsoever, at his house.  Back at my ranch I had been in touch with Diane Conklin because her house had a strategic view and she could see that the fire was coming up close.  My house is in a canyon, in the meantime, a family of two, their two horses and two dogs who were friends and neighbors of Oliver from Barona Mesa evacuated to my ranch.  I asked Diane Conklin if we should evacuate and she said I should call 911.  I called 911, I canít remember what time and they said there was no need for Mussey Grade to evacuate.  When Oliver arrived at my ranch he was sure his house had burned down, I was devastated and discouraged.  When other fires threatened us we had six or seven different fire companies parked on our road and one truck parked next to our house.  This fire, nothing, no help, no warnings, nothing.  Olga, the baby with two dogs and cats left to go to a friends house in town, they wouldnít stay.  They knew from past experience that the fire would potentially come our way.  The other couple left with their animals.  We were always in touch with the Sue & family  and told them about the danger and said they should get ready to leave.  XXX brother, sister-in-law and baby from Phoenix were staying with them.  My children had to force me to leave, load up the three horses and three dogs, I couldnít find the cats and there was nothing I could do about my birds in several aviaries.  I canít remember what time we left, maybe around 4:00 AM.  I think I saw a police vehicle at the turnaround, they didnít know anything.  We left the steel gate to our ranch open and took our horses and dogs to the arena at the top of Mussey Grade and tied up our horses.  Oliver and I went back down to the ranch.  Reggie and Renee came down to help but I felt it was useless.  We picked up photo albums and little else.  We could see the flames coming up near the lake and flames on the south side of the lake and over my ridge to the east on Kimball Valley.  I said goodbye to my house and the trees.  I waited with Oprah at the arena and prayed for daylight, that the bombers would fly and save my ranch.  A neighbor came by and said she was told that there would be no help.  It was broad daylight, no bombers came, my ranch was destroyed by fire.  We stayed at the arena for a few more hours and then we packed up the horses and dogs and left because it looked like the fire was coming our way.  We evacuated to Pauma Valley, Oprahís friends had extra corrals and dog pens.  Oprah and I stayed at our friends on Highway 78 and the next day it looked like the other fire was coming from the west toward Ramona so we moved the horses and dogs to our friends on Highway 78.  Oliver went back to his place on Rainbird only by getting through the blockades that the police and fire departments had set up and was able to save his house.  He lost his pool house, outbuildings and fences but was able to save his main house.  It took two days to put out fires at his house by himself, we were very worried about him.  We got to Oprahís house on Little Page and took some of her things and left and watched from Highway 78 as the fire came closer, the fire jumped Little Page road and burned down her house.  When I got back to my ranch, when they let us go down the road, I had lost two houses, a guesthouse, garage, two aviaries, two sheds, (inaudible).  Someone told me they took pictures of my ranch and structures burning in the daylight hours of Sunday, October 26th.  I am attempting to locate those pictures.  As you can see, itís affected my whole family in different parts of Ramona.  Rainbird, Mussey Grade and Little Page and so weíve been very involved and thereís one interesting article that I would like to tell you about.  It was on a fire in 1984 and it was in the Ramona Sentinel, no it was San Diego Union, thatís what it was, San Diego Union and of course my husband was alive at that time and this is, Iím just going to read one, two little paragraphs. 

While Fernbrook residents, the date was September 8th, 1984.  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.  His wife Olivia, it doesnít mean we werenít nervous wrecks when all this was over.

 

Bob Krysak:  How many calls were (inaudible).

 

Olivia:  I think I just places the one and Iíll tell you what, I had to, my daughter-in-law reminded me that I had called, I mean thatís why I talked to my son and my daughter to remind me, everything was so horrendous and a blur, I donít even know what day Oprahís house burned down.

 

Bob Krysak:  You said that someone had pictures of your house?

 

Olivia:  Thatís what I was told.

 

Bob Krysak:  Do you know what time that was approximately?

 

Olivia:  No, I didnít but we think itís obviously in the daytime because they saw something and I have no idea and somebody, one of my friends told me that, and you know what, I said, I donít want to see my house burning down.  So I have a copy of this, itís not too clear but if you want that you can have it.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thank you.  Pete.

 


Pete:  Pete, I used to live at [Mussey Grade Road].  We lost our place on October 26th.  I donít have a formal statement, Iíve kind of been there and done that so Iíd just like to share some observations with you.  I spent twenty three years in the fire service in Ramona with the old fire district and the water district and CDF and seventeen years of that twenty three years I spent as a fire officer in this town.  Best as I can recall I went on about 16,000 calls and about 1,000 fatalities in this community and having worked with the CDF I kind of knew what was happening and I knew it was going to happen.  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.  Donít do a holding action for six minutes or twenty minutes or whatever.  Now they may come if the circumstances are right and put out the fire and do a good job but as having worked with the CDF and I knew what was happening that weekend is theyíre going to send 70 to 75% of their wild land resources up north which is what they did.  Ventura County, Rancho Cucamonga and then they put it on a no divert policy which means the stores closed, their locked up, weíre not going to send anything back which left a 25% resource effort here.  If just a fire service attacked this fire, which means that you got a 12% resource effort on this fire.  At 5:30 some fire official, as best I know, kind of reduced himself to a timekeeper and said at 5:30 this store is closed also, come back tomorrow.  A few hours after that decision was made, there were people burning alive.  So when I saw the fire at 2:00 in the morning, I heard my dogs barking, I kind of knew it was going to be over right there and then even though it was hours away.  I listened to the radio, I knew they were up north, I know their policies, I knew the east winds were coming, we were making our phone calls and people were evacuating.  My other half left about 7:00 or 8:00 and we filled up the trucks.  I stayed a few hours more and this was about oh fourteen, fifteen hours after the fire and what I believe was happening, I never saw a fire engine, I never saw an air tanker or chopper or hand crew or dozer or anything like that and I didnít expect to see it so I stayed till about 10:00, the fire was getting real close and packed a few things and left.  I drove all the way up Mussey Grade Road and never saw a fire engine or anything, went to the topÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  You said this was 10:00.

 

Pete:  Thatís when I probably left, yep and the fire was real close, it had come over the top of the MG camp above Mussey Grade and I kind of watched it for a while because it actually died down when it hit the rocks for about twenty, twenty five minutes and if they had had some air tankers, they would have knocked out that flank right there, Iím pretty sure of that.  That would have saved about, I think about thirty homes on the MG camp because it came right down through there, I was watching it and itís real rocky over there and it just died out and picked up again.  So I have, I know some of the answers of what is wrong here.  I mean having been in the business I know you want facts about the fire but if you look back over the last seven years of the fires in this county, Harmony Grove, I was on that fire.  In fact the general manager lost his home in that fire.  CDF was up north.  A couple of years later they had the Viejas, Alpine Fire in January, the CDF doesnít do January.  Next year they had the Fallbrook Fire, CDF doesnít do February.  And that year they had the Viejas Fire it was the same institutionalized standard operating procedure so the failure all along on all these fires has been, in this county, the inability to have a rapid assault force capable of an initial attack to over power this incipient fires.  Irregardless of some people up north, thereís no means of a safety valve down here that weíre going to back fill that 25% with other resources because they are the foresters, they are the wild land specialists, they know east winds are coming, they know everything Iíve told you and yet there is just a 12% resource attack and the end result was tragic.  The, you know when you hear about firefighters risking their lives, I can tell you that nobody risks the lives of firefighters more than the fire service.  They were expecting to fight this fire with just 25% back up, whoís putting their lives at risk?  But the issue is whether the fire service was putting our lives at risk with their policies; they are institutionalized response, a system that they donít want to change.  Then unfortunately what happens after this fire and itís just a reality is that the profit sharing on the fire is unbelievable, but thatís another issue.  I really didnít expect a response from the CDF and why would they respond to my house when theyíve been unresponsive all along.  Weíve complained to this board, weíve come to this board, weíve complained to the CDF about our coverage in this community.  Two years ago we came here and we tried to tell the board here that we were concerned about the risk down on Mussey Grade Road.  We didnít need Steve Delgadio [Ramona Fire Marshall], weíre at risk, we know thereís a risk.  We were concerned about the risk becoming greater by the CDF policies in the water district.  One of the problems we had was our fire engine, not our fire.  Station 82 engine is constantly being confiscated by the CDF to go to the Ramona Air Base which leaves us unprotected.  The only reason they send that, our local fire engine, to the airbase is for legal protection.  Itís not there for fire protection.  They are required by the FAA to have a crash fire rescue at the airbase and the problem is that the U.S. Forest Service is required to have it there, theyíre Department of Agriculture, they try to get a crash fire from the federal fire fighters, the Department of Defense, thereís no linkage there and so they donít get a crash fire rescue normally.  The problem is they know every year theyíre going to have a fire season, theyíre going to know theyíre going to need a crash fire rescue there but they donít take steps to do it, they just take Station 82ís engine, bring it to the airport where they are committed to stay, this is done in the middle of the day, in the middle of fire season and they donít back fill that station.  It also removes our ability to even get oxygen or medical attention in an appropriate timeline.  So once again weíre in a situation where, and I used to be on that engine for years, they used to send me to the airport, even under protest, whoís putting firefighters lives at risk.  They send an engine to the airbase which is an inappropriate engine, with no proximity here, no foam, if the pilots crash weíre not going to be able to do anything to save them and at the same time Mussey Grade, Highland Valley area has reduced fire protection.  Now we complained and we came to the board and with all do respect, the water boards response was, well we signed a contract with the CDF so we donít need to deal with these issues, that was the response we had.  We went down to Monte Vista, we were complaining, we went to see Chief Miller, Chief Maynard, Fire Marshall Delgadio about the Salvation Army problem, along with the airport problem and sitting in front of us was about seventy years of fire experience between the three of them.  We asked them to provide us with a code that allows you to expand the Salvation Army project without a secondary access, they refused to give us the code.  We wanted to resolve this issue, they refused to tell us what code they were going to use.  We asked them, they told us, Chief Miller right there was saying if a fire came through Mussey Grade Road and came through the Salvation Army camp, their plan was to put the 700 people there, the 300 children out in an open field, what they call sheltering in place and he said the fire will come in and burn around the camp, these are from wild land specialists, and we had about nine citizens in a room with us, Olivia and Diane and I looked at Chief Miller and I really almost blew my cool when he said that.  I told him, you know the smoke is going to blow through that camp, you know the hot embers are going to blow through that camp with all those children on that hill, if you were to go out there today, that hill where they wanted to put the 300 children is a burned out cinder.  The structures they wanted to put those children in are down on the ground and the reason they just fell into the Salvation Army trap with their billions of dollars, the Salvation Army doesnít have the means for secondary access and I believe they just bypassed making them put in a secondary access.  They had no means of evacuating 300 children so they did shelter in place instead.  When I confronted Chief Miller about the idea can you provide me with one single fire department in this entire country that would allow 300 children to be sheltered in place in lieu of an evacuation plan, he couldnít and wouldnít tell me so when I say to you, why should I expect a response from the CDF because theyíve been unresponsive all along, that was part of my statement to you.  The other problems that I have with this contract, you know in the old district, we were able to put five engines together in this community when there were fires threatening the community, nothing of this nature but big fires.  The reason we were able to do that is that we had a reserve firefighter program and when the fires came the reservists would come in and they would staff the engines, they were allowed to drive, they were trained to drive so we had a little depth in the fire protection in this community.  CDF doesnít do that, they say reserves are not certified to drive and thereís also a union problem with that too.  So during these fires, including the Viejas fire, they will take locally subsidized reserve engines and put them in state fire stations to backfill the air stations when their engines go fight fires.  They take locally subsidized reserve firefighters and put them in state fire stations not Ramona.  So these are some of the issues that this contract has and I donít have any illusions that thereís going to be a county fire department, thereís not going to be a county fire department, we need one, weíve got 50 white helmets running around, everyone is pointing fingers but my best hope is that this contract will be reviewed.  My personal preference would be that the water board would not renew this contract, instead have Lafco hold an election and form a fire district where you have five board members who are totally concentrated on emergency services in this community.  But if you are going to keep the contract, I hope you write in the contract making some demands on CDF that you either change or have, or be more responsive to this community instead of acting like an occupation force where weíre not really customers, weíre kind of chap and they donít feel like they need to respond to us like our meetings with the CDFÖ(end of tape)

 

Pete:  One last thing Iíd like to say is about the paramedic program and the rescue community.  If you look around at these other communities, youíll see that they have what they call paramedic engines, assessment engines, Poway, all these other places.  Ramona does not and we should have it.  We should have paramedics on fire engines and get out of the transport business.  The advantage being, if some kid gets smacked on Main Street and the paramedics are down the hill transporting some sprained ankle, what good does it do that kid?  If you have paramedics on engines, theyíre there in town all the time, they get on the engine, you have four people on an engine, even with reserves and youíll better serve the community and save more lives.  That system cannot be implemented under the CDF, itís not in their interest to do that. They canít send engines to fight fires up in Sutherland Dam like they take now if theyíve got paramedics on them, paramedics would have to stay on the engine in the district serving the community.  It doesnít mean you canít meet your mutual aid obligations, it just means that we will be served better, itís in the interest or Ramona, it may not be in the interest of the state but we will be served better with a fire district putting reserve engines in service and still working with the CDF, theyíll always be here, you still have your airport.  So I knew what was happening the day we were going to loose our home, I knew it was going to happen, I told our neighbors.  The other thing I would like to say, one of the conclusions I came to when I retired from the fire service was that the fire service does many things very well, they really do, one of the things they do not do well is be particularly honest with the public, theyíre not good at that.  There is a number of reasons for that, they donít generate revenue, they need to maintain an image, theyíre pretty, when it comes down to it, theyíre pretty thin skinned.  I would hope that public officials would give the fire fighters all the respect they deserve and earned but donít give them immunity.  Keep an open mind and theyíre human beings like everybody else but the idea is that you know, we lost sixteen people, thousands of people lost their home and we can do better.

 

Bob Krysak:  Art, do you know what time your house was gone?

 

Pete:  Between 10:00 and 12:00 on the 26th, it was right across the street when I left.

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible)

 

Pete:  Nothing.

 

Bob Krysak:  Did you see any bombers?

 

Pete:  Absolutely, there was nothing there.

 

Bob Krysak:  Never (inaudible).

 

Pete:  I had evacuated to the other side of Ramona, I understand they made some drops up on top after we had lost everything.  There is one other thought that comes to me and that was there was never any direct plane contact on my home or my neighbors.  Okay, so (inaudible), thatís okay but what destroyed our homes was a blizzard of hot embers going horizontal and people ask why did the adobe homes burn and why did stucco homes burn.  What happens is the windows break, the glass melts and the fire storm is coming and youíve got a high pressure here, and a low pressure built up on the house and when the windows break it comes in like a blow torch.  So you could get an army of soldier ants and put them around your property for a mile down to bare earth your house is going to burn so weed abatement works on some instances but whatís going to save your house is a fire service who is prepared to overpower these incipient fires in the first place, one, two is have a fire engine at your house and when I was on Harmony Grove we saved some houses even in that blizzard and have an evacuation plan and do what else you can, fire, whatever.  So there are answers out there and when the fire service says that there wasnít anything we could do, I would point out that there were fire engines left to save homes and there are stories out there of saved homes all over the place so thatís part of, if the fire service is going to say that they couldnít do anything, they couldnít do it, there was only so much we can do, I hope that theyíre not saying that we canít do it any better because they really need to get together, county supervisors and get all those fifty white helmets together and say look weíre going to put this special ops force together, just like they do in the military and when that red flag alert comes weíre going to activate the special ops and be ready to go and just hit this thing with everything weíve got and then you try to limit the damage if you canít do it so thatís something thatís been missing all along, whether theyíll do that or not I really donít know.  So there are answers out there and I hope that itís not superficial and if I can ever be any assistance to this board Iíd like to if you ever have any advice on whatever I know Iíd like to help out if I could.  Thank you.

 

Kit Kessinger:  Thank you Art.

 

Pete:  (Inaudible)

 


Ryan:  Hi my name is Ryan, I lived [Fernbrook Drive] and I wanted to voice my opinion on the lack of help we had down there.  We woke up at about 4:00 that morning.  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 and there was, I guess the CDF and a fire truck at Kittyís Cafť that just watched it burn and turned around and went back up the grade and it was pretty heartbreaking to hear.  Thatís pretty much all I have to say, we needed more help, no fire trucks, no CDF, no planes, the neighbors and the community.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible)

 

Renate:  We had a sleep over that night.  The neighbor called me and I didnít wake up, I didnít hear the phone, (Inaudible) right across the street, they came and knocked on my bedroom window, (inaudible) before I got my kids out.  Got my kids out, we were ready to leave, we left at 6:00 and came back to get our stuff (Inaudible).

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible).

 

Renate:  But they let us go back.  MG Village.

 

Ryan:  MG Village, trying to keep people from getting down the bottom of the grade.

 

Renate:  Trying to keep people from going back down but they did let us go back, we got some things, we saw the fire was coming, we loaded up our things and we left.

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible)

 

Renate:  (Inaudible).

 

Ryan:  The insurance will only let us replace the house we had, upgrades and all that comes out of our pocket.

 

Renate:  Where are we going to get that money from?

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible)

 

Ryan:  No I heard.  Somebody had told me that there was a CDF car and a fire truck in Kittyís Cafť parking lot approximately somewhere between 10:00 and 2:00 on the 26th and people were still going around trying to save houses and they told CDF and firemen, ďhey thereís houses over here, letís go save the houses,Ē they hadnít burned yet and they said, ďitís a lost cause,Ē and I guess they turned around and drove up the grade.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Ryan:  Yes.

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible)

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible)

 

Ryan:  Yes, and drove back up the grade.  No, thank you.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thatís my last speaker, if someone else wants to speak, come up to the mic, orderly one at a time, state your name and your address.

 


Sue:  My name is Sue and I lived on [Mussey Grade Road], I live on Oliviaís property and we are her caretakers.  I mostly want to say that Olivia has always been a fire preventative person.  Her property was very cleared, always every year, year round and sheís always been concerned about that.  On the day of the fire we didnít get enough notice, really to get prepared, when you have a short notice like that you canít do much.  Thereís nobody around to let us know, her son was keeping in contact with her because he was already fighting the fire up at his house so when we found out about the fire was on the morning of the, it was actually 11:00 on the 25th, Friday the 25th, we were having a birthday party for me on that night at my house and so we, her son called us for assistance to help with the horse trailers so we can bring a horse trailer to help him evacuate his horses so we went over there to hitch the trailers and he came down and got the other trailer and he left so he called again at around 1:00, 12:30 or 1:00 he called and he wanted the other trailer hitched up so we hitched up the other trailer and Olivia drove the trailer up.  In the meantime there was nobody around on the ranch or down the road or anything to tell us what was going on so when Olivia came back and called us and told us that the fire was, you know, very big and may be heading this direction we should be ready to move and this was around 1:30, 1:00, 1:30 and so we were still waiting and everything?

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible)

 

Sue:  Iím sorry, AM in the morning on the 26th and we were just waiting to see because weíve had other fire threats around the area and they never seem to come over to our area so we waited for Oliviaís next call to see whatís going on and then everybody came down to her house, her son, her daughter Oprah and the other friends that they brought down with their kids and horses and then they decided to leave because they felt the threat that it was coming this way so I like around 3:00 in the morning we heard noises up at the gate and we went up to the gate and it was blowing very hard, the wind was blowing very hard and so we went up to the gate and there was a sheriff car parked up there and we asked what was going on and he said, ďwell thereís a fire over by Barona,Ē and so we said, ďoh really,Ē and I looked around and I said, ďthat fire is right up over our, over the ridge there, it should be getting here soon,Ē and he said it wasnít a threat yet so I drove back down to the house and I went over to Oliviaís house and I told her the house, that the fire looked very close and we needed to get out and so in the meantime her daughter and I were getting the horses back in the trailer that her son had already come back with them and so we had the trailers, we were loading the horses and we could see the fire coming over the ridge and it was close and we all packed our dogs and cats, whatever dogs and cats we could get, we lost one of our dogs at the time and so we got whatever we could, which was nothing because we didnít have much warning as far as getting out right away at that moment so Olivia left, we left right behind her and the cop was still up there and we said well we are leaving too because thereís nothing we can do down here so we left the gate open and we left and then we didnít see anything on the way up the gate, up the road, no fire trucks, no other anybody warning anybody else, itís like it was dead quiet.

 

Bob Krysak:  What time was that?

 

Sue:  This was like around 3:30 that time and we do not see that other people warning the rest of the community to get out because we thought we were over, we were like getting out but we just thought everybody was gone because there was no other movement around, we just thought that we were the last ones to get out because we were the last ones on the road so if we would have decided to get out last minute we probably would have gotten trapped or, because of the ways the fires came in.  I understand that we did take the risk living down on that land, we do and everybody takes the precautions to make it fire safe, you know because there are bushes, thereís bushes and trees everywhere you move.  Thereís no reason why we couldnít have anybody down there to help us fight fires or save some of the homes that were there because some of the homes were like, there were areas that were so far down that they were able to be saved, they were opened, they were right there, easy to get to, it wasnít like they were in steep, deep areas and I want to say I have a nephew that works as a fire, hotshots, CDF, fire department or forestry and he was fighting the fire up in San Bernardino area and at that time his crew, they were keeping contact with us on the phone, his friends who had cell phones and he kept asking us how is it going and Iím like, it is pretty bad, our house is going to burn down and he requested, or his group went to his commanding officer, or whoever he was in charge with and they asked if they could come down here, they were like we have to go back to our houses, our families are in danger and they said no, their responsibility was up there right now, we had no responsibility down here at all.  He just felt so bad that he just kept calling and apologizing that his crew could not be down here to help everybody in our family. (Inaudible).  I know a lot of people were in danger by the fire in the Country Estates and everything but on Mussey Grade it just felt like it was just Mussey Grade, you know, no big deal because thereís families and citizens were down there trying to fight their homes, you know, why couldnít we have a fire truck or whatever fighting with us, you know.  They were able to do it, it wasnít like it was nothing they couldnít do, it was something they could have done, try to at least to do something to save some of the homes, some of the people that were killed, you know and I know that weíve lived down there for twelve years and the community here, Mussey Grade community have been very devoted and they work very hard to keep it that way so that itís a beautiful place to be down there, itís a family, thatís all they could think of is why werenít they being protected.  They took the precautions to protect the place in the first place and they should have deserved to have a chance.  I mean, thank you everybody on the Mussey Grade Alliance for being there.  We all know what theyíre talking about, fight the planning boards and everything because we know the safety and like Pete, the Salvation Army, if they would have had all the construction, imagine the traffic down there.  You know to get out and evacuate people, it would have been very ugly and you know, and thank you for Olivia for always keeping us in a preventative mode, always think fire, always think fire and sheís always been very good with that and we appreciate her very much.  Weíve been living with her for almost twelve years now and we love her very much and we just feel very bad for her loss and our loss because she feels a lot for us and her daughter and for her she didnít only lose her home, she lost a lot and she feels responsible for all of us and sheís a great person, she is.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Sue:  No, Iím just saying sheís involved with the Mussey Grade Alliance and that she is, she lost a lot, not just her home, the community is affected a lot and I just want to say thank you for giving us the opportunityÖ

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Sue:  Saturday the 26th, yeah Saturday.  Thank you, yeah that was it, I was confused.  Thank you.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thank you.

 


Thomas:  My name is Thomas, I live at [Fernbrook].  We are one of the fortunate ones, the group that still remains there so we are all thankful for that.  Unfortunately I canít say itís as a result of any efforts by the fire department, it just happened to be that weíre very fortunate.  We were woken up by our neighbors at about 4:00 in the morning on Sunday, gathered our belongings, put them in the van and waited for the fire to get a little closer before we actually evacuated.  I got my family out about 7:00 that morning and I went back to gather the pets, the family was safe. 7:00, I stayed there until roughly 10:00, highway patrol was directly in front of our house, told everybody it was time to go.  So we stayed as long as we could, we made it.  I came back that night.

 

Bob Krysak:  You said the highway patrol was in front of your house.  Were they stationary there or were they moving around up and down the road?

 

Thomas:  He was stationary there on that road and I didnít see him going down any of the side roads at that point.  So I stayed there as long as I could and took the pets at that time.  I came back about an hour later Iím estimating 11:00, 11:30, the fire line had been moved up, further up the road and then I turned around and left.  It had been obvious that the highway patrol stated that everything back behind us was gone.  He also stated that cafť was gone and we could see flames to the right, apparently it wasnít accurate, the cafť is still there, our house is still there, little pocket.  I came back in that night, I made my way past the blockade at the top of the road, made our way all the way down, it was probably right at dusk, Iím not sure exactly what time it was, I know it was getting dark, lots of stuff still on fire on the way back there, my neighbors property was, the wood pile and some structure, small structures were on fire.  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, Iím not too sure at that time any were worth saving, they were already down, however my neighbors property, her house was still standing, had the fire went from the wood pile out to her wood shed to her house, she would have lost her house, my house directly next to it, it may have been gone as well and then it could have just carried on and possibly wiped down that whole pocket that is still there today so I never once saw a fire truck come down Mussey Grade Road.  In 1998 shortly after I moved in, like two weeks after I moved in, there was a fire.  They had like four or five fire trucks right in front of my house.  We have a fire hydrant right in front of my house, I thought when I moved in what a great place to have the fire hydrant and in 1998 they were just waiting at that fire for it to come over the hill so they could fight it.  Unfortunately I never saw any fire trucks come down, I assumed the bombers would be coming, you know to fight it as daylight came, I never saw those.  We were just told that there arenít going to be any fire trucks dispatched down here, that was by the highway patrol.

 

Kit Kessigner:  When was that?

 

Thomas:  That was approximately, probably right around 9:30, 10:00 at the latest on Sunday morning and so at that point it had become very obvious that we werenít getting any kind of protection or support.  At that time and I hadnít seen any of the aircraft flying around so it became obvious that that wasnít happening at that time either so like I say, we evacuated and left the house.  Thatís pretty much my statement.

 

Bob Krysak:  At 11:00, you went back down at 11:00, 11:30 in the morning.  Did you notice if there were a few structures that you could identify that were still standing that ultimately may have burned?

 

Thomas:  When I went back at about that time the fire line had been moved up so I couldnít notice any structures back behind there that were or were not standing, okay, thereís a curve right around, thereís a sign that says ďWelcome to Fernbrook,Ē thereís a curve right there and everything past there I could not tell, I couldnít see so I had no idea what was really happening. I was only told that everything back there was gone, it seemed to be apparent because I could see flames on the right hand side of the road, you know would possibly lead me to believe that everything back there was gone so I just turned around and left and I was eager to get back there that night after everything had swept through to see what was still there.

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible)  A lot of structures survived the firestorm but ultimately were started by a spark or (inaudible).

 

Thomas:  Likely my neighbors house probably would have went up if I hadnít gotten back there and used the house, or the hose right off the house, so I mean everything else behind me was gone and that was just a natural progression, it was very much on fire, the wood pile, when I got there.

 

Kit Kessinger:  Bryan, it didnít sound like you didnít need to do anything to defend your house, it just didnít burn.

 

Thomas:  It didnít, no.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Thomas:  I hate to speculate, the fire was coming down on both sides of us, I mean coming down to the, what would that be the west, coming down from the west and from the southeast was bearing down so it just, weíre in the valley there, itís flat, perhaps the winds didnít get just right and I would hate to speculate why, I mean we have a great clearing around us as well as some other people do but the way things were, that didnít seem to matter a whole lot for a lot of places.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Thomas:  I never did with the highway patrolman being there, it had become obvious that they were aware of things, no I did not.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Thomas:  On Sunday the 26th obviously, Iím estimating probably, well I was woke up at 4:00 in the morning by my neighbor, I would estimate 7:00 in the morning.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible)

 

Thomas:  He was only in front of my house as the fire line moved up.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Thomas:  Probably a half an hour, forty five minutes and then they would move the fire line further up the road as the fire progressed.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible)

 

Thomas:  Sure, he went further up Mussey Grade Road and when I left at roughly 10:00 and came back about an hour later the fire line had moved up, obviously he had to drive his car up as he was evacuating apparently telling people that they had to leave, they would move the line up.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Thomas:  No I donít believe so.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible)

 

Thomas:  Yes, all those.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible)

 

Thomas:  Sure.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible)

 

Thomas:  Oh sure, several of the structures that are no longer there were there when I left, I mean they were still up when I was evacuating.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible)

 

Thomas:  That wasnít accurate obviously, ours was still there and that little pocket but I donít know if he knew from first hand knowledge or seeing the fire but one might assume, itís ravaged the whole area so I donít know if he had personal knowledge that everything was burned up or just was assuming.

 

Diane Conklin: (Inaudible)

 

Thomas:  The highway patrolman.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible)

 

Thomas:  Yes.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible)

 

Thomas:  Thatís correct, itís probably about 100 yards up the road, thatís where the fire line was at that time.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible)

 

Thomas:  Sure.  Thanks.


Ulma:  Iím Ulma and we live at [SDCE] and I decided I should come and sort of verify some times because we were right on the front and I called in, I called 911 at 5:37.

 

Bob Krysak:  Another 5:37.

 

Ulma:  Well there must have been some other ones, I donít know but the reason I know that is that someone from Northern California in the 911, they were doing an investigation and they called me later and they asked me if I had made a call to 911 and I said I had.

 

Bob Krysak: 911 called you?

 

Ulma:  They are doing an investigation, somebody from Northern California was investigating the calls apparently.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible)

 

Ulma:  Maybe it was CDF, I donít know, anyway so I said do you have the exact time that I called because I had looked at my clock but I had already reset my clocks and so he said that it was 5:37 and I said thatís what I thought it was and so what transpired is that I was sitting at my desk and we look right out at the back, the fire was right out my window and I could see the white smoke coming up and I called 911 at that point.  My husband had gone up to the water tower, the trail that goes down to the punch bowl is behind our house and he walked the dog up there and he had run into a young man up there who had been trying to call 911, he saw the smoke and he ran into a young man who had been trying to call 911 for several, he said about ten minutes and he couldnít get through so that would, you know, push the time back probably.  When [husband Uri]  walked in I said, ďdid you see thereís smoke over there,Ē and he said, ďyes,Ē and I said, ďwell Iíve called 911,Ē and so he took the dog because we heard the helicopter coming in from the pick up down on Ramona Oaks and so he took our dog down there and saw them as they landed and they were unloading Mr. Martinez to be put into the patrol car and it was still daylight, it was almost dusk but it was still daylight so I figure that he came back into our house, Uri did, about maybe 5:45 from his walk and then walked right on down there and saw them loading Mr. Martinez up.  So that time, that was 5:37, at least from me they got a call but they must have gotten some from some other people and they did say they had already received information that there was a fire.  The smoke was very white and very clear, it was just two little plumes, I thought, I said to Uri, ďoh I help they get something on there and dump a basket of water on there real quick because they can get this out.Ē  It was not black, it was just very early in the fire and then I think weíre kind of naive about fires because weíve never really been in fires except for that we have, there have been fires that have burned out behind us.  That one mountain just right behind us burned but the CDF was right there and they put it out and we just had great confidence in them doing that and so I felt very peaceful and relaxed about just going about my business and we had dinner and then we began to watch that nothing was happening and people began to gather up on our road, weíre the last road up there behind, well the last road before the forest and people were just coming up and sort of milling around, you know 8:00, 9:00 and we went out into the street and we could see the flames beginning to move and we just thought, well they must be going to do something about this you know and I always just say, let me know if I need to do anything so I feel very peaceful and go about my whatever Iím doing.  About, I was outside about 9:00ish, going 9:15 watching, we called our neighbors because it looked like they werenít home and they have horses so we were concerned, our neighbor wondered if we should get the horses out and so we called them and they were home so people just were milling around but I know an exact time when I went in the house, I donít know what time but at 10:00 I looked at my clock and I thought well Iím just going to go to bed so I got ready for bed and went to bed and about twenty of 11:00 or a quarter of 11:00 our friends, the XXXXís came pounding on our door and said, ďyouíve got to get out of here,Ē and so I said, ďwell what do we do,Ē and she said, ďwell just get your stuff together and get out of here,Ē and so she started loading things up into her car and just different treasures around the house you know and left.  Apparently I did never hear this but my husband said this, that there was a warning, they did come by and say you need to evacuate, it was not mandatory, this was early, this was probably around 10:30 or something like that, in that time frame because our friends came at a quarter of 11:00 and while they were there loading us up and by the way we do have a picture, they took a picture of the flames behind our house while she was there and my clock, they took down one of my old clocks and it stopped at 11:00 so that, I know a time that they were almost finished loading us up and we have that picture of the flames going all across that ridge there, up very close to our house and of course Christopher lives on the next hill next to us and so we left.  They apparently came and said we needed to evacuate.

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible)

 

Ulma:  No, it was a sheriff but my husband heard it, I didnít.  No knocking at the door so if you were inside and closed up, at least I never heard them but he was outside and so they said we needed to evacuate within twenty minutes and so you know we threw some clothes in the bags and our dogs in the car and at about, Iíd say 11:25, we left,  Our neighbors, the YYYYís, we were all leaving at that time and I didnít see any fire equipment, I saw no sheriff, I saw nobody and we were front line, I mean the fire was going to hit us first before it hit those houses all along, probably Christopherís house burned first at 12:30, they said.  I have a LA Times, I donít know if youíve read this but we had the battalion chief who was in charge of the fire here in the Estates came to our home, he was out showing an LA Times news, photo photographer the area and theyíve written a very comprehensive, itís the most comprehensive article, four pages in the LA Times, Sunday morning that I had seen where I could get a picture of really what went on timeline and everything and so we had our home, we have a quite a bit of open dirt and stuff and the Estates has mowed back behind and around to the side, they couldnít get clear behind us nor behind the YYYYís house and I donít think they could get behind yours Christopher, so we had an open mowed area and so our fire, in fact then we left and then we went to the other side of the Estates.  We stopped at ZZZZís house, she didnít know anything was going on and we stayed there and we watched the fire because her balcony overlooked our whole area and it just looked like it was wiping out that whole area, I didnít see how it could possibly, how anything could survive and the flame would just move back and forth and youíd go out and we called and our phones still answered so we knew our house was still standing or the phone was still standing.

 

Kit Kessinger:  From where you were watching could you see any emergency vehicles going out? 

 

Ulma:  No.

 

Kit Kessigner:  It was just the fire.


Ulma:  In fact this battalion chief, Zambro is his name, when he talked with us he said, well Christopher knows, there was no fire engines, you asked if there was one coming in, they said no.  So we had no fire engines up in that area and we would be the first all along there, youíre on Cherish and probably just all the houses that are right there, weíd be the first ones hit and there was no one there and I thought why donít the bull dozers start backfires or do something you know.

 

Bob Krysak:  Weíve heard stories that at some point around 6:00 or 7:00 or even as early as 5:30 that there was a CDF truck out there, in fact watching the fire.

 

Ulma:  You mean that evening, the 25th?  Well there was the pick up.

 

Uri:  From the pick up, Iím Uri by the way, but from the pick up that was up by the water tank and those two guys that had called in on the 911, probably within a half hour there was a fire truck up there observing, I donít know if itís a CDF or, more of a fire truck than a pick up truck and there was also a fire truck, Iím pretty sure down where they were taking Martinez off of the helicopter, I know there was a couple of paramedic trucks and three police vehicles that I also think there was a fire truck there also and that would have been right around 6:00 or something like that.  So there was fire, there was equipment there early on by not when the fire was in progress.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  The fire was already in progress.

 

Ulma:  So I donít know, then as I say we left and we watched and we thought that there was no way that we could have survived and then we went into town and we stayed in there and we called a friend who we knew had stayed in the Estates and he walked over to our home and he said it was still standing so we felt of course that we were blessed but when we got back on Tuesday and you said divine intervention, when I left I just said Lord youíre in charge, itís your house and it burned up to this, close to the post in the back of our house, to the deck, and it looked like God just said stop and it stopped with this much to go, no reason to stop, nobody was fighting it.  So anyway, when we came back and we donít have to face what our neighbors have to face.  I think itís very sad, I know this battalion chief, he was overwhelmed, he couldnít get any help and he called for it and then when I read in this article that there was three hundred and some firefighters in the back country, asleep, because theyíd been told to go to sleep and theyíd fight the fire in the morning, that really disturbed me.  Iíve only seen that one article and we have all the papers and I need to go through it where they were talking about the people from the other side, the back side, that were watching it and could see where it was and their decision not to act on it and so I definitely believe that had they dumped a little water on it, they could have stopped all this chaos.

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible).

 

Ulma:  This is the Sunday, December 28th.  In fact our backyard is pictured in there with my husbands arm and itís a long article and it tells about the whole sweep of the fire and had some very interesting information to me that I hadnít read anywhere else.  Did you have this paper?

 

Bob Krysak:  We have a lot, we do have it.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible)Ö(end of tape)

 

 


Victor:  People lost their lives; I donít understand how that could have happened.  What Iím looking for, more than anything, is an accurate timeline of what happened between 4:30 PM on Saturday the 25th and probably when I got back to my house, I think it was about 1:30 AM and nothing Iíve read in the newspaper is even close to accurate during that period.  Even the site where it says the fire started, thatís not correct, itís off by a couple of miles.  The reason I know is, that if you stand in my driveway, it points right up where the fire started, and thatís the only thing that you can see from my driveway.  A retired fireman found my driveway and parked his truck there so he could watch the smoke and he had a scanner on and I walked up to see who this was driving up in my driveway around 6:00 and he told me who he was and he had a scanner on and I listened to the fire fighters talking to each other up on the hill and I could testify as to what they said because Iíll never forget it.  ďThe fire is two to three acres, itís in an inaccessible area, we canít get to it, weíre going to wait for it to burn down to the road so that we could get at it.Ē  Nobody said we need helicopters, nobody said help, nobody said anything, it was just a small fire, it was just a little column of smoke like it was a large campfire type thing.  I knew the Santa Ana winds were supposed to happen that evening, so did everyone else that watched the weather, I imagine 97% of the people knew this.  I donít understand how a firefighter can have a fire two acres in size, a lake a couple of miles away, helicopters sitting on the runway at Ramona Airport and not put that fire out.  I moved here from New Mexico, I saw the Los Alamos Fire happen, all those homes burned for no reason.  That one was set by the forestry people and there was a wind advisory and nobody could quite figure that one out, people said well thatís never going to happen again.  Well this one didnít get set by a forestry person but it got set and there was a wind advisory and the same thing happen that happened in New Mexico except worse because this is seven hours from the time this fire started till it started burning houses and there was nobody there to defend our houses.  I donít understand that.  Okay, letís get back to you.  When did I first learn about the fire?  4:30 to 4:45 in the afternoon, Saturday October 25th.  When did we ultimately evacuate?  I figure it was 11:30 because I took a picture of the fire as I left my house at 11:18 and I know that to the minute.  Thatís when the fire was within 200 yards, it had crested the ridge from our home on both sides of the gully there, the wind was blowing, not hard, but it was blowing and that fire could not have taken more than fifteen minutes to get to our homes so I think the fire arrived at our home at 11:30 PM.  I think the fire department, according to their words, correctly arrived after midnight, well engulfed by the time they got there.  Now there were these trucks there, watching, again I do not understand how somebody can watch a fire with those conditions whoís in the business of fighting fires, that canít add two and two together and say this is a disaster if that wind comes up and to watch it and not do something.  At least get the homeowners out there to turn their sprinklers on, to at least go out there and make sure everyone turns their propane tanks off.  At least tell them to prepare to evacuate.  That could have been done at 5:00, we found out, everyone kept calling, whatís happening, whatís happening and we were given, I was given, I can only speak for myself, I was given the impression that this fire was under control and they were putting it out.

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible)

 

Victor:  Everything that happened, there was no alarm.  There was no concern, there was nothing.  People were sleeping after the thing exploded so why would they be worried about this fire up in the hills, it hadnít exploded yet.  Thereís a wrong mentality in this whole situation. Nobody, nobody that was the expert in fires recognized what could happen and try to do something to prevent it.  Thatís my conclusion.  Okay we evacuated around 11:30 as the fire was arriving at San Diego Country Estates, in contradiction to that newspaper article.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible)

 

Victor:  I did not look at my watch, my wife did.  She said itís 4:30; I know it was well before 5:00.  The sun was shinning very brightly, the smoke column hadnít risen itís full height yet, this fire had started within the previous ten minutes or fifteen minutes so I would say that that fire started no later than 4:30 PM. 

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible)

 

Victor:  I called once because when I called I was given the very specific information that the Julian Forestry had been notified and were on route or on scene and that the Ramona Forestry had been notified and were on route and on scene.

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible)

 

Victor:  Forestry, I donít know, whatever, she said the Julian Fire people and the Ramona Fire people, Forestry had both been notified, were both on route or on scene and all I was interested in was getting an alert because the fire had just started.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible)

 

Victor:  No, she wouldnít know, again the purpose is to ring the bell, not to manage the fire.  Iím not the fire fighter, Iím not going to give them my opinion on what should be done, Iím just astonished at how little theyíve done when there was notification when the fire was very small.  It ended up costing me my house, which we can get into that.  When we evacuated at 11:30 PM, as I say, the fire had arrived at our homes, we left with smoke and flames visible within a few hundred yards of the house.  No fire trucks were there except these two small trucks that I hear about, I did not see those.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible)

 

Victor:  That would astonish me too, how could they leave.

 

Bob Krysak:  They leave at some point.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Victor:  I canít imagine they left, I donít know.  They did, I guarantee that, no one came.  Let me go through my story.  No fire trucks as I left I said well weíre going to see all these fire trucks roaring up Ramona Oaks on their way to defend our houses, I would have bet money on that, not one fire truck.  As weíre evacuating, as the flames are reaching our home, not even one fire truck on its way up Ramona Oaks Road which is a mile and a half, two miles up San Vicente which is another mile and a half, two miles.  So there wasnít a fire truck within three or four miles of our homes when Christopherís home caught fire, in my opinion, when it caught fire.

 

Bob Krysak:  And you went down Ramona Oaks?

 

Victor:  The only way out is down Ramona Oaks, down to San Vicente.

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible)

 

Victor:  I had a horse trailer with horses, a dog, my wife wanting to get out of there and I knew the fire department, whatís the secret, the fires been going on for seven hours, I need to go and stop at the fire department and tell them thereís a fire, it never crossed my mind that that would have any value at all, it shouldnít.  Anyway, how did I learn about the fire?  Direct observation from my home of the initial smoke column, it was very small, rising straight up.  What emergency agencies did I call or attempt to call?  I called 911 immediately, on my cell phone, disconnected as I said.  One interesting thing, like I say, I know at least four or five other people who called around that time, 4:30, 4:45.

 

Bob Krysak:  Those people (inaudible)

 

Victor:  They are supposed to be here, Iíve got the names of some of them.  Okay, again this is all going to come out, I took time to fill out inventory lists and going through everything I lost.  My only comment is Iíll know when I made my call, first I called to see if there is a record, Iíd like to hear my conversation, I was told those were not available and whatever so I said fine.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible)

 

Victor:  I called the fire, or someone, I called just the fire department and weíve talked to the fire chief here and my wifeís asked him all sorts of questions and said he would get answers toÖ

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible)

 

Victor:  I donít know the name of the chief here, the one down on San Vicente, that fire station there, by the high school, the main fire house.  She went there and talked to the chief for a hour and had a good conversation and he wrote down a lot of questions and weíre yet to get the answers back.  Anyway, my only comment is, I figure I would know when I made my call because my cell phone record bill comes in every month and it lists every call I make and the time.  I called AT&T and asked them for the time, could they look it up in their computer?  I spent a week to two weeks trying to get that information, I couldnít get it from AT&T because they donít have it available because the billing is not done yet and they installed a new computer system and they couldnít do it.  Finally I got the bill, thereís nothing on it.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible)

 

Victor:  Right, well my call is gone and so is the call of at least two other people who called earlier.  I made the mistake, I think of giving my name to people from the CDF at that very first meeting I went to.  They came up and asked me whom I was and so forth.  I was talking to these fire chiefs from Northern California, Iím not a conspiracy person but this is just the facts.  AT&T, I asked them how could this happen, they donít know how.  The records should be there, my wifeís phone had calls all the way up to 11:10 or 11:00 something when she called my daughter to tell her weíre leaving.  My phone, it burned up in the house.  Anyway, and Iím not the only one.  When did I first see the flames?  The first time I saw flames, all we ever saw was smoke and then it got dark and there was a orange, a small orange glow right at the same spot where the smoke was.  It didnít seem to grow and we watched it, every minute, I mean this is something, weíve been around fires before, we watched it and it started to grow a little.  I was up with this fellow parked in my driveway with a scanner when flames appeared at the first crest, which was again, five miles away but I saw flames and I said uh-oh and the flames died down so it came up to the crest, it was burning and then it died out because there was no wind to push it over the crest so the fire stopped.  The retired fireman or who ever he was said, ďwell that probably was a back fire and it looks like it worked,Ē and that gave me comfort and I said, ďgood, theyíre fighting the fire,Ē they lit a backfire burned up all the fuel, now they can get to it so I felt better.  I kept watching the glow, thatís around probably 6:30 or something like that.  I listened to them talking, the fires two to three acres, inaccessible, all that stuff.  How did the fire progress?  Well I would say probably 9:30, 9:45 the glow was getting bigger.  Still no flames visible other than that one little brief episode but the glow was wider and at that point I looked at my wife and I said we need to get our horse trailer here.  Nobody gave me any advice or anything; itís just common sense.  Iíve got horses, my horse trailer is at my daughters down here in Ramona and I needed it there in case we needed to evacuate.  No advice from anybody.  So I left, probably 9:45 to get the horse trailer, it takes fifteen minutes to drive down to Ramona, takes about twenty minutes to hook up a horse trailer and get it all put back together so I was on my way back a little after 10:00.  When I left there was just a little smoke column, it was dark but you could see it. When I got through hooking up the horse trailer, turned to go back, got on Highway 67 Main Street, I looked over, there were two very large smoke columns and I said, ďoh my god, there is a second fire,Ē and it was big.  It wasnít a second fire.  The wind had come up so I know the wind came up around 10:00, blew the fire northwest towards Santa Ysabel or whatever it is there and when it reached the mouth of the gorge my impression would be that the fire split because the wind blew it down the canyon and the rest of it blew towards Santa Ysabel and I saw two fronts basically.  So the fire had exploded totally out of control at 10:30 PM.  That is when, in my opinion, every professional firefighter manager in this area should have set out the biggest alarm anyone could have set out, because Iím hearing people were asleep in their beds three hours or four hours later on Mussey Grade.  I donít understand that.  To me that is more than negligence, that is criminal negligence in my opinion.  I donít understand how this could have happened.  Okay, thatís how I observed the fires progress.  There was two fires, one of them headed down the canyon.  When I got back to the house there was a roadblock.  The roadblock was one block below Cathedral where you go up the hill to go up to our house.  The very end of Ramona Oaks, there was a patrol car there blocking the road, I come up with my horse trailer and he says, ďyou canít go in.Ē  I said, ďIím a resident,Ē he said, ďyou canít go in.Ē  I said, ďIím here to pick up my wife and my horses,Ē and he said, ďdo you have any id?Ē  Thank God I got my California Drivers License but yes I had an id so he said, ďokay, Iíll let you in.Ē  If he wouldnít have let me in, I would have run him over so I was very happy he let me in but he told me, ďIíll let you in but you have fifteen minutes to get back out of here.Ē  So I roared up the hill, Ulma just told you, theyíre all there with their friends putting stuff in boxes.  People standing around, thereís a dozen teenagers watching, theyíve gathered there for spectator sport.  The fire is about fifteen minutes from reaching that area.  Twenty minutes from burning the houses and thereís a dozen teenagers standing there watching, we told them get out of here, you know teenagers.  Loaded the horses and all of that.  When I drove up I got out and I said, ďletís get going weíve only got fifteen minutes to get out of here,Ē and the comment I got, not from Ulma, they werenít there but Victor and Susan and everyone else standing around there and they said, ďwhere did you hear that?Ē  This is after the fire is on itís way up the hill to our houses and I said, ďweíve got fifteen minutes to leave,Ē Iím not allowed to go back to my house and the people up on the hill know nothing.  Now there may have been a police car that went up and down Thornbush with its loudspeaker but thatís not going to do anything.  He needs to turn his siren on.  They need to have the helicopter up there with the loudspeakers, they need to be buzzing the houses with the helicopter, they need to be doing everything possible to get people out of their houses because that fire is there and this is not after midnight, this is 11:00.  So we loaded our horses up, my wife as I had left at 9:45 had been going through our house trying to find our papers and so forth but she only had time to get maybe one or two small boxes of our things.  We lost our whole heritage in that fire.  We could have been told when they didnít have control of that fire back at 7:00 in the evening, why wasnít there an advisory saying this fire could be dangerous, you should prepare to evacuate.  Donít evacuate but this is an advisory, you should prepare to evacuate if necessary if we donít put the fire out.  Instead people were calling and being told, this is not my personal experience but Iíve heard this from, I think youíre one of them, people were told, would you quit calling and blocking our lines.  Iím told that.  I couldnít believe that at the time, after what Iíve heard during these depositions and other things Iím pretty much able to believe it now.  Okay, fire crested the ridge at 11:18, what damage did I suffer?  Well I tried, I took the horses and my wife to our daughters down here by the airport, unloaded them, turned around and said, ďIím going back, we didnít get anything out of the house, Iíd like to try to get some things out of the house.Ē  Weíve got no clothes, we got what we were wearing so we wrote a list of what was important stuff to get and I took my list, went back there.  I couldnít have gotten there later than 12:30, the canyon was an inferno, there was road blocks, multiple road blocks, everything was on fire, I was stopped, I said Iíd like to drive in when the flame front passes, itís obviously passed my house, the flame front was down towards the Western Equestrian Center by then.  The inferno, Niagara Falls, I said well the flame front is not in the homes there, itís only on the sides, can I drive up and get to my house since the flame front has passed?  The answer is no.  So I said well Iíll wait, and I waited and I walked probably a quarter of a mile up to the next road block where I was told they had arrested somebody who tried to sneak past that road block to get to his house and I finally talked a police officer into driving me in his patrol car and I never sat in the back of a patrol car before and I climbed in the back of his patrol car and he drove me up to the top of the hill because I said Iíd just like to see whether my house is still there and he took pity on me and he drove me up there and there was a lot of smoke and I really couldnít see anything but the flames had past that area so I went back down, walked down, found a lady who was having trouble with her horse so I helped her with her horse and did some things, I had an empty horse trailer, stopped, looked at different road blocks and said is there anybody who needs help with their horses, Iíve got an empty horse trailer and I did that for about an hour.  During this time a fellow drives up at one of these roadblocks, pulls out his thing, his media pass, that bothered me.  I canít go in, the flame fronts passed, I canít go in and see if there is anything I can do to protect my house but if Iím with the new media, go right ahead.  Did I loose or suffer damage?  Yes, my home is gone.  Everything I owned is gone.  We stored it for two years, we moved in on September 11th, we unpacked and we were almost finished unpacking and itís all gone.  I was able finally to sneak past, I was in the military, I know what escape intervention is all about.  I managed, with a horse trailer itís hard to sneak past anything.

 

Kit Kessinger:  What time, Victor, Victor what time?

 

Victor:  This is, you know, the fire was over the hill on its way to Mussey Grade, Iíd say itís probably 12:30, 1:00.

 

Kit Kessinger:  Youíre secrets good with us.

 

Victor:  What, which secret? 

 

Kit Kessinger:  That you snuck past.

 

Victor:  Yeah, no and I got stopped a couple of times, I kept trying to get in and there was roadblocks and they said you canít go past.  I turned around and I helped people with horses for a while.  Finally, I was leaving, I said well I canít get it, Iím going to leave and they were pulling the roadblocks back because the fire was further back and as they were pulling them back I said well I was leaving, I was actually going to leave and I got down to where the arena was, the Western arena and I said well theyíre busy, Iím going to turn left toward the arena, Iíve got a trailer, theyíre going to assume, I drove down whatever that street is, got to the end of that street and if you turn right itís the western arena, if you turn left itís the recreational center and all that, I said okay, Iím going to try one more time, I turned left and as Iím going past the recreational center, here comes a patrol car down that street and I said well heís probably going to stop me but letís see.  They were getting out of there and he just drove by and let me go past so I drove up to Cope, turned left and went back to Ramona Oaks and it was like the surface of the moon, there was no living soul in sight and the fire was well past that area so I said okay, turned right and drove to my house.  I estimate itís around 1:30 in the morning by now, between 1:00 and 1:30, like I say the fire got there at 11:30 so this is two hours after the flame front got to my house and I drove up the hill to my house and the first thing I saw when I first caught sight of my house was a totally unpacked house with 100% of the roof in flames, nothing else burning, just the roof, this is an all tile roof, a new house with every fire prevention technique known to the construction industry but the roof was entirely in flames.  Not a broken window, not the porch, somehow the fire got into the attic and the attic was in flames.  This is 1:30 to 2:00 in the morning and every time I use itís before changing clocks.  I donít think most people had time to mess with their clocks that evening, its pre-changed 1:30 to 2:00 in the morning.  That fire couldnít have been going for more than a half an hour because only the roof was going.  So my home probably caught fire around 1:30 in the morning.  Secondary fire, I got there, there was a fire truck and a water truck in the cul-de-sac.  The wind was blowing at least 50 miles an hour, it was a horizontal ember thing, I ended up with a lot of embers in my eyes, the firemen had their masks on and hats and outfits and I had this hat on.  The fireman came up to me and said, ďwho are you,Ē I said, ďIím the owner,Ē and he said, ďwell Iím sorry,Ē I quote this, ďyour house did real well when the fire came through, we thought it had made it and somehow the fire got up in the attic and by the time we noticed it there was nothing we can do.Ē  I donít understand necessarily either but thereís only two guys and they were trying to keep my house from lighting up all the other houses around it so I said fine, the ground was on fire, the fire had passed but all of the mulch that we were required to put on our ground to prevent erosion was on fire.  So I spent two hours there watching my home burn from the top down, listening to the windows break, knowing what was in there, putting out a burning ground so my neighbors homes would not catch fire.  The firemen were protecting down wind of basically the house next door to me and when that was done they left.  I was there for two hours with very little water pressure filling up my horses water bucket and carrying it down and putting out spot fires around my neighborís homes so that they wouldnít catch fire.  I finally was exhausted and I left I presume around 4:00 and my house was still burning.  I took a picture of it, I got back in the truck to leave and I said I still have that damn camera, I really ought to take a picture so I walked up and took a picture of it and itís an interesting picture because it has these horizontal red streaks going through it because the wind was blowing so hard and the home was still half up, it kept burning for hours and hours after that.  The firefighters, I presume they left around 3:00; I left around 4:00.  I never saw another person there.  Iíve told other neighbors were up there, my hoses were strung out, so let me tell you the evidence that there were people there.  I donít know who they were.  All of my hoses were strung out and burned, there were tracks, tractor tracks in the greenbelt between the national forest and my house so they had some sort of equipment there driving around whether it was a vehicle or what, I donít know.  There was no grading or de-brushing because there was no point in it, it all burned but there was evidence that people were doing something.  Maybe it was the neighbors; maybe it was firefighters, I donít know.  What effort did I take before the fire?  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 have a barn thatís exactly the same way with a big difference, thereís ten foot holes, openings so the horses will walk in and out of, itís lined in plywood, it has open windows, not even bars on it but the rest of it is built exactly the same as the house.  It isnít even singed and it is in the path of the heavy flame front that came through there because itís directly above a gully that could not be cleared but it had four to five foot bushes in it and everything else and thatís where the ground cover got mostly burned but the hottest part of the fire that reached my home didnít even singe my barn and I was there to see my house with the roof on fire totally intact so the fire did not burn the house, whoever said that the windows blow out when the fire moves, it didnít happen in my 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, this house was, the architect came back from a trip that next week and my wife, a realtor, wanted to take him on a tour to show him what happened and his comment was, I know one house that didnít burn, it was my house.  She said when they got there his jaw hit the floor because everything was done to protect that house from fires.  So weíll do a little more when we rebuild it.  In fact Iím not going to have a vent that goes into the attic without an ember trap and if I have to invent one I will because there is no reason for embers to get into the attic of a house and apparently they do.  Okay, what did we do during the fire?  I wasnít allowed back but before leaving I did turn the propane off and I locked the house considering I had a lot of nice things in there, theyíre all gone.  There were two firefighters there when I got there at 1:30, there was a water truck, he left once, got refilled and came back and they did save the house next to us.  I spent my time saving the other houses around there that were upwind of mine.  In my opinion what could be done better?  This is what I wrote before, we need a special team of fire extinguishers not fire fighters that go like the Marines, they go there before you have a firestorm and put the thing out and if they fail then you bring the Army in to fight the fire.  We donít have those extinguishers, thatís not the mentality of the people in charge of this fire.  They should have a mission to do this and the authority, they should not have to ask permission from anybody to get the resources needed to put the fire out.  What is this business of needing to call Sacramento to put a fire out?  I donít understand that, Iím astonished.  You put the fire out in the beginning.  Iíve seen two acre fires extinguished along the Rio Grande River in Albuquerque with a single helicopter dipping a bucket in the river, putting the thing out, it can be done in fifteen to twenty minutes, Iíve seen it done by experienced helicopter pilots dipping the buckets.  Cuyamaca Lake is only a couple of miles away from where the fire started and thereís at least an hour to hour and a half of flyable light at the time that the fire started.  Itís my understanding, I donít know this personally but Iíve been told there was a helicopter at the Ramona Airport.  I donít know if thereís a pilot, I hadnít got time to find out, I will.  What if anything would you do differently for the future?  At the risk of my marriage I would stay and defend my home, since apparently you canít rely on the fire department to do that.  I sent, I havenít sent them yet, I made some Christmas pictures that we send out every year, a collage, I put a picture of our home on (inaudible) and the other homes on Cherish thatís taken from a helicopter that was in the newspaper and I put a little label on the pictures and the label I put on it was the undefended neighborhood because thatís the way I feel.  I do have a list of questions that I would like to ask, these are great questions, I applaud you for what you are doing, this is a very very well thought out exercise that youíre going through.  The information youíll get is important, what Iíve told you today is Godís truth.  I thank the fire fighters who risked their lives.  Iím very angry at the administration of the fire fighting agencies that didnít put this fire out when they had the chance.  The fact that sixteen people died and over 2000 homes are destroyed makes it more than a lapse in judgment or even negligence.  Pearl Harbor is negligence but they didnít have any warning.  We had our Pearl Harbor with seven hours notice and active involvement, that was my Pearl Harbor.  It wasnít a surprise; there was no surprise here.  There was just the inability for some reason to react to the obvious threat that it would happen and how anyone can sleep at night that was involved with the running of the fire that didnít do whatever they needed to do to wake these people up on Mussey Grade when there was an inferno going on in San Diego Country Estates with the wind blowing directly towards them, I couldnít sleep.  I appreciate, Iím sorry it took so long but this is an important matter and I really hope this does carry out and those responsible for what happened are dealt with in some reasonable way.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thank you sir.  (Inaudible).

 


Unidentified Speaker:  The system thatís in place, normally when thereís a fire, if this fire had started, not later in the day, but at 2:00 in the afternoon, when thereís a response itís a wild land response, in other words you get so many engines, hand crews, dozers and air tankers, in one sentence when they dispatch them.  But I think we need to find out is if this fire happened before the cut off time, why did they send an engine and not the air tankers because if any time before that cutoff that should have been in the dispatch.  You do not send an engine to a wild land fire and then call back for help.   Iíd also like maybe perhaps if you could verify, Iíve been told that there were two air tankers, not helicopters sitting at Ramona Airbase, fully loaded.  Normally whatís also at the airbase is the spotter plane which has a battalion chief and a pilot and itís called Air Command or Airco and in my experience working at the airbase and other places, if we even see smoke, the spotter plane immediately goes off even before dispatch, flies out there, verifies the smoke, the fire, the location, tells the ground crews the best way to get in and then directs his air tankers to hit the fire, either the flanks or whatever.  I would like to know, we would like to know, if Airco was at the base with those air tankers prior to the cutoff, and why they were not dispatched.  The other little piece of information is that the U.S. Forest Service is also stationed at the airbase and they have what they call Helitack, H-E-L-I-T-A-C-K copter.  This is a special type of helicopter that normally has five fire fighters on it and when a call comes in they are flown directly to the fire, you donít need roads, and they drop off these specially trained firefighters, a little remote and upwind from the fire and they immediately start to cut a line and then the helicopter goes double duty and gets a bucket and starts dropping water on the fire to protect it and put the fires out so thatís like a four minute response if all things being equal to Cedar Creek from the airbase.  Theyíre right there and again theyíre in the air even before that alarm goes off and if we could find out where they were in this time period.  So those are some of the, because this is not making sense to me, thereís something very very wrong of why those air tankers werenít, and the thing about a cutoff is also, Iíve seen them fly, a helicopter cut off time to giving it everything you have, giving it 100% effort so hopefully we can get some answers to those questions, that would be great if that could happen.  Thank you.

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible)

 


William:  Two quick minutes.  Iíd like to wait and give a full report Thursday night if I might.  I live next door to Victor and our house, I guess, and Iím told by the fire people that it was the first house to go.  We back up to the Cleveland National Forest.

 

Diane Conklin:  Please state your name and address please.

 

William:  William [], []out in the Estates.  But couple of things, I want to get my facts straight before I make a full report and I found out yesterday that one of my neighbors that lives up on the hill above video taped almost this whole thing and they have the fire from when it was back on the other side, down by the river and it came up and it shows, shockingly when it hit my house and my house went up and they also, she videotaped as they were leaving the area and part of the video tape inadvertently scanned down across the dash board of the car which had a clock so thereís a timeline there and I donít know if you would want a copy of that or I canít deliver it or guarantee it because I have to get permission from the owner.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

William:  Oh okay, why the same one? 

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

William:  Iím going to pick up a copy myself tomorrow, I scanned it very quickly.  One of the things on the timeline when I talked to her she wasnít sure whether she had changed that clock so it could be an hour off but she was going to talk to her husband and verify whether that timeline wasÖ

 

Unidentified Speaker:  Does that videotape include (Inaudible).

 

William:  It includes a couple of shots of the police vehicle, nothing of any fire equipment, and again, the details of our situation, Iíll tell you Thursday evening.  But needless to say, we lost our entire house and the last thing that happened, and 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.Ē

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

William:  Well Iím going to have to try to come, to check with, we left about the same time that our neighbor did that had the, whether it showed that the clock was an hour off, I believe it was probably around midnight or after but I appreciate theÖ

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Bob Krysak:  All right letís take five minutes, for folks that have to go. 

 

(Miscellaneous talking in the background.)

 

Bob Krysak:  The next speaker will be Zelma.

 


Zelma:  Iím Zelma and we own a home at [Barona Mesa].  We also own a ten-acre parcel out in the Four Corners area at [Barona Mesa].  My husband and I had been in the desert during the day.  We got home about 9:00Ö

 

Bob Krysak:  On which day?

 

Zelma:  This was Saturday, October 25th.  That evening as we came in at 9:00 we saw the red glow in the sky and mentioned that there was a fire and looking, it looked like it was, you know out in the Cuyamaca area, not near the Estates or anything so we didnít panic, didnít see fire trucks, it seemed to be no mass confusion through the Estates going up to our home and we have a two story so our kitchen window overlooks the east and so as we looked out the window we could see the red flames which looked way out, the red glow way out in the Cuyamacas, we werenít panicked or anything.  About 10:00, about an hour later, my son-in-law called on the phone, in a panic, and wanted to know if I had heard from my daughter who lives out on our ten acre parcel at the Four Corners and my son lived out there also in his own trailer and I said, ďno ZZZ, you need to remember sheís at a wedding shower this evening down at Mission Valley so sheís not going to be home.Ē  And he said, ďno, she was too tired, she was going to go to bedĒ and he said ďI keep calling the phone and I get a busy signalĒ and so he wanted to know if she had tried to call us because of the fire and he went on then to tell me how bad this fire was getting and I wasnít aware at the time that it really was coming towards the Estates and so I then got off the phone and started calling my daughter and all I was getting was busy signals and I thought well at least sheís aware of the fire, she must be calling her friends, you know letting, or people calling her and sheís on the phone saying yeah Iím fine, etc. so we didnít panic and we just kind of kept walking out to the kitchen, looking, watching the fire, it didnít seem to be moving much.  The glow in the sky didnít seem to be changing so at 12:00 we took one last look and went to bed.  Nobody had come, no fire engines, nobody had said the Estates is going to be evacuated, no warnings, no planes, nothing so at 12:00 we went to bed.  About 12:15 I hear my doorbell just ding, ding, ding, ding, ding and my front door being pounded on so I went running out there, I knew whoever it was was in a hurry and three of my sons girl, well they were girls, friends were at the door wanting to know if I had heard from my son and I said no I hadnít and they were in a panic.  They live over off of Rainbird and they came to say that he had been up at our property that the end of the Estates was on fire and all of the homes on Barona Mesa were burning down.  Now Iím in a panic and this is where my children are living on our property and so they wanted the cell number and I gave it to them, shut the front door, I was in my nightclothes, ran in just grabbed a coat, I didnít even get dressed, got, my husband heard all the commotion, had come out and I said, ďweíre leaving now, get the keys.Ē  The Estates is on fire and thatís what they had said, the end of the Estates was on fire and Barona Mesa was burning.  So he ran down to the garage, grabbed a chain because there is a locked gate as you go in through Wildcat CanyonÖ(end of tape)

 

Zelma:  Okay so my husband ran got the car keys, put on some clothes, we jumped in our little Suzuki Jeep and we headed down Barona Mesa towards the fire station that is on Vicente Road there in the Estates, past that, there was no activity that I saw but with the fire I figured theyíre all gone so I didnítÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  What time is it when you left your home?

 

Zelma:  This, okay we left our home by 12:30 gotÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  You didnít take a lot of time?

 

Zelma:  No, no we did not.  Iím in my nightclothes with a coat on, that was it and threw on my sandals and we were, we came to a roadblock right there at Ramona Oaks and so my husband drove right up to the roadblock, I jumped out and there was a man and a woman volunteer sheriff there and I explained to them they need to move the roadblocks so I could get through because I needed to go get my kids and he said, ďno weíre not moving the roadblocks, you canít go, you need to get out of here, go back home,Ē because he saw us come down from the Barona Mesa Road area, he said, ďyou just need to go home,Ē he said, ďthe end of the Estates here is being evacuated,Ē and I said, ďwell my children have not been evacuated, Iím sure I would have heard and I need to get through the roadblock,Ē and he was very adamant he was not going to let me through that roadblock.  ďNobody is going through that roadblock,Ē he said and I saw the line of cars, people coming out, evacuating out so I ran back to the Jeep, got in, I told my husband he wonít let me through and my husband said, ďyou need to go back and explain to them they donít live here in the Estates,Ē so I got out, ran back over and I explained to them they live in the Four Corners area where the dirt roads are and he said, ďtheyíve already all been evacuated, the fires up in that area, theyíre all out of there by now,Ē I said, ďwell Iím sure my children arenít because weíre on top of their hill, a mountain and itís hard to get to, Iím sure they havenít been evacuated because I havenít heard from them,Ē and he said, ďmaíam, theyíve all been evacuated out, the warnings been set, you are not going through, we are not moving the roadblocks,Ē so I went back to my car, got in, told my husband theyíre not moving the roadblocks for us, we canít get through. While Iím in my Jeep I was very upset because he then proceeds to move the roadblocks because here come five or six cars pulling horse trailers and he lets them through.  Now I jumped out of my Jeep and I went over and I just screamed in his face, ďIím going through this roadblock because my children are out there, thatís my family, theyíre going to burn if you donít let me through,Ē he said, ďsorry maíam, weíre not letting you through, only the horse people through to rescue the horses,Ē I said, ďyouíre telling me horses are more important than human lives, Iím going through the roadblock,Ē so I went back to my Jeep and I told my husband, ďgun itĒ you know and he came running, he started the car and comes up and the man stood right in front of our car.  Well we couldnít hit the man, we werenít going to run someone down, so he stood right there and would not let us through and he had thrown that back when he saw me.

 

Bob Krysak:  I donít know if I would have had that same expression if I was in yourÖ

 

Zelma:  Thatís true.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible)

 

Zelma:  Well because that was the fastest way, at the time, weíre so used to going that way, that was the way we were trying to go.  At that point he was not going to let us through, because we go up Rainbird.  You go Ramona Oaks to Rainbird and then Rainbird hits the Four Corners area and thatísÖ

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Zelma:  No, well we were going, we were trying to go east, that is east.  By now all my arguing, because we were there by 12:30, I would say itís getting close to 1:00, I mean, I was out of that Jeep three times now arguing with him, probably about 1:00 in the morning now and so I mean at this point I was in a panic, you know, and I told my husband, I said, go the back way, we have to go through the ultra glide port so we went off that way and went down the road, nobody around so itís dark, we could see the red glow in the sky but there was no traffic, nothing and we came to the locked gate that was there that the Barona Indians have now put up and it was locked and I kept saying all the way, do you think they would have unlocked the gate knowing there was a fire and 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.  Now there was no fire in that area yet but the whole sky was red, we knew it was right over that hill by now and so my husband said, ďhook up the chain,Ē well thank the Lord, thatís why he had the chain, the Lord had just said, ďput the chain in the car,Ē and he did.  So we hooked up the chain and we had a little Suzuki Jeep and Iím looking at the cement, you know this metal post, this big, it was a fat post and I had to loop the chain around it, crawl under the Jeep, you know to hook it up and so he starts pulling and we barely budged the thing, well it took us twenty minutes just revving our car and frontward and reverse and finally it gave after that twenty minutes.  I didnít think it was going to give but it gave and in the process out of the left from the tree area some man came walking out yelling and screaming, ďwhat are you doing out here, you woke me up,Ē you know and I said, ďsir you are so happy we woke you up, there is a huge fire,Ē and I said, ďlook at the sky, my god, itís right over the hill, get your family and get out,Ē and he says, ďoh my gosh I got to go get my horses,Ē well that was the last thing I wanted to hear about horses because Iím trying to save human lives you know and I donít mean to offend horse owners because we love horses, I know you love them, my best friend owns horses and I love them, but at this point I just wanted to get my children, and so we woke him up, he went running back so I know we saved him and his family and since Iíve been back to the area and looked, his home is totaled, itís flattened as well as the other two families that we finally let through that gate as soon as we got that gate open we let them exit out first and so then we hit the road and went up and we got up to the top and the whole mountain to the south of our ten acres was all on fire and Iím looking around, smoke was everywhere, it was so thick that I was just looking and the fire had come and burned past our property and was on this next hill just all on fire and as we drove through thereís two homes there on the right so we were honking our horns trying to wake them up, we just plastered our horn up to our property and I got out and went running in to my daughters home there and thank heavens she wasnít there so I happened to see the cat, I tried to get the cat, couldnít, and so anyway, looking around we grabbed our motor home and we drove out of there with everything on fire.  The property next to us was on fire and was coming up and everything was fine and it looked like the fire had burned past and was going towards the Mussey Grade region.  Now this, I would suspect no later than probably by 1:30 in the morning by now, and so we went ahead, I wanted to double check neighbors and my husband said, ďno, you can see the way the fire is, weíre going to get trapped in here,Ē because it was in the Barona Mesa area and it had already burned past us, he was afraid it was going to come down the hill into the area we had just come because all below us was on fire as well and I looked across the hill south and I could see two other homes on fire so he kept yelling at me, ďweíve got to get out, got to get out, weíre going to get trapped,Ē so as long as I knew my kids werenít there I was happy and we left.  I got home and my children were at home so they didnít, they wouldnít allow them to turn left on San Vicente to go to Barona Mesa where our home was, they had to go all the way around but that was okay and I knew who she had argued with, you know, so that was okay, he had his road block thing on the brain and that was what he wasÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  If you had run him over they wouldnít have had that.

 

Zelma:  Thatís true, thatís true, thatís true.  But I feel at this point we had saved three other families that we know of for sure and that was probably why we had to go that way, is how I look at it.  But anyway we got home and throughout the evening we kept watching the fire because by now it was burning through the Estates, coming closer to our area and we watched it progress and I would say probably about 2:30, 3:00 in the morning the fire had reached the hill just west of our street there on Barona Mesa and I thought it quite interesting because we hadnít seen hide nor hair fire engines, hear anything and all of the sudden I heard some engine, no sirens, just engines and I look, coming up because weíre right at the corner of Vista Vicente and Barona Mesa, right there is our home and so the engine, we saw a fire engine coming up and I said to the children, I said, ďlook thereís a fire engine, finally,Ē you know and it came up to the corner and stopped right there and then more came behind it and they just stopped and next thing I know they turn down Barona Mesa, went right to the bottom by La Plata, where La Plata turns right and they stopped, right in the middle of the street and six engines were right there, just stopped in the middle of the street, no sirens, nothing.  Then six more, because I counted them, there was six more that had come up to the stop sign and stopped, going down Vista Vicente so we have twelve fire engines right there just sitting, parked, and Iím watching the hill burning and moving up towards the homes and Iím thinking firemen, engines and theyíre watching the fire burn up towards the homes.

 

Bob Krysak:  About 3:00 in the morning?

 

Zelma:  Yes.  And Iím thinking when are they going to go up there to put, to protect the homes on the top of the hill, at the top of La Plata and they just sat there for fifteen minutes so I went out and I started screaming at them, ďwhat are you doing, sightseeing,Ē and I felt sad because two of the home owners were on our front deck watching their homes at the top at this point and seeing these engines just sitting there.  Finally the six that were in the street area parked, turned and went up La Plata and we watched the lead truck go half way up and he reversed into the driveway of a home and then the truck behind him did the same so each one took a driveway, backed in and stopped.  None of them went to the top of the hill.  At that point Iím watching and the fire had already started consuming the homes at the top of the hill.  There was no engines at the top, we saw no fire spray, we saw no firemen up there trying to put out the homes and we watched, the two owners watched their homes burn to the ground and here were the fire engines right there half way up the hill, didnít even try to protect those homes that we could see from our vantage point and there never were engines and even at this point nobody had come to tell us to evacuate, weíre still in our homes and many of the neighbors had already filled their cars and had left, we hadnít, nobody had told us.  Thereís a canyon right behind our home which comes right up to our backyard area and so with the wind blowing, as hard as they were blowing by now, plus the fire itself creates wind and we could hear that wind, it sounded like a train, it was incredibly loud and we just kept waiting for sparks to fly and hit our canyon and thatís what we were waiting for and when that happened we had been watering everything down and we were just waiting for that canyon to start catching on fire and that was when we were going to evacuate ourselves because no one had told us to.  We watched the fire consume those homes, proceed east, or west Iím sorry, along the mountain, probably about, I would say probably by 4:00 in the morning weíre watching it directly behind our backyard come down near Nectar, threaten all those homes along Nectar Avenue, proceed to burn up the hill and up to Calistoga Place and we watched three more homes burn down on Calistoga Place.  We did see firemen there, we counted four firemen back in the brush area moving around but they, we only saw them there maybe ten minutes, at that point I guess they figured it was hopeless or what I donít know, because they left and those homes burnt down so at that point I had told my daughter when we saw the kids that her home was fine, everything was there, the fire had burned past our property, you know, the wind had carried it through, thank the Lord her home was saved and the whole bit so by 6:00 the next morning when it got light we all got in our cars, we drove up there and needless to say everything was to the ground, the fire had burnt it all down so my daughter had had two minutes to get out, my son, the story my son tells is she had been sleeping, the dog, her little puppy had knocked the phone off the hook thatís why we all had a busy signal, she was sleeping and my son who was in the Rainbird area there, had gone up to make sure the property would be okay and so he got up there, I think he said about 10:00 and was watching the fire burn in the Cuyamaca Mountain Area and they had watched it for hours and he then said as they were watching, it was probably 12:30, 12:45 they had watched the fire burning, getting closer towards the Estates, not realizing the fire had burned down into that fifteen hundred foot valley, it had burnt down there and had burned all along the bottom of that valley because about 12:45 he said, sorryÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  A little background music.

 

Zelma:  Iím sorry, they just hung up.  What happened is as they were watching the fire about 12:45 to 1:00 in the morning all of the sudden he saw a little glow behind him, turned around and the winds had picked up by then and he said he saw the flames crest over the hill and he, within ten minutes, he saw the flames, Iím sorry it wasnít even ten because they were out of there by ten minutes, within five minutes he saw that fire swept across hitting those homes and moving at such a rapid rate.  He ran in and woke up my daughter thinking theyíd been safe all those hours, woke her up, you have two minutes AAAA, get your keys, get the puppy, get out of here, weíre leaving we have to go.  The fire is now at the bottom of the road, within five minutes he saw it sweep across and they then hauled out of there racing the fire, laying on their horns because there had not been one plane, one fire engine, no one had ever come out to evacuate anyone from that region and all I can say is thank God my son went out there or my daughter would have gone down most likely in the home because as fast as that fire was coming so there was no warning. 


Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible)

 

Zelma:  Yes, Iím Zelma, [], owning a ten acre parcel in the Four Corners region [].

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Zelma:  No I was screaming from my deck, ďwhat are you doing sitting there, thereís a fire, go fight it, go save those homes.Ē

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Zelma:  They were in their truck, it was early, it was dark.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Zelma:  No, no, no.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Zelma:  They were there a good fifteen minutes.

 

Diane Conklin:  Then what happened?

 

Zelma:  The six engines that were on the street in front of our home down to La Plata, those are the six engines that left and went up half way and backed into the driveways of the homes on that street.


Diane Conklin: (Inaudible).

 

Zelma:  Yes, yes and then they left, we never saw one fireman.


Diane Conklin:  On either fire?

 

Zelma:  No, no we watched the homes burn to the ground.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Zelma:  Not from what we could see from our vantage point, no.

 

Diane Conklin:  The four fire engines you saw by your home?

 

Zelma:  Later on yes.

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible).

 

Zelma:  Yes, Iím sorry Moonglow Court.  Yes Calistoga runs up that way but it was the three homes on Moonglow Court that we saw burn down because our home is right there where we can see up the hill and right at all three of them.  We watched them, it was Moonglow Court.

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible).

 

Unidentified Speaker:  We need to be fair on this and I saw that fire and after midnight I donít know if anyone would go to the top of a hill in the path of that fire and risk their life and their equipment.  I donít think itís unreasonable, that was not a fire that you could do anything about at that point, it was a wildfire, it was a fire storm, it was a holocaust and so I think to say these firefighters in their trucks were sitting there at the bottom of the hill seeing that fire come towards them I donít feel like, would you have gone up that hill?  I wouldnít.

 

Zelma:  But if that was my duty to go.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  Itís not your duty to kill yourself.  The question here Ö

 

Zelma:  No, but it would be my duty to save homes and those homes were fine.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  Not at the risk of human life.  We got to be reasonable with this and I think the question is, what were the standing orders, and I would imagine at that point, the standing orders were do not get in the path of this fire with any human being.  My concern is that there were human beings in the path of this fire, they werenít getting out.  The homes were gone, thereís nothing much you can do, but what about the people, I donít understand that part of it.

 

Zelma:  Okay thank you.

 

Bob Krysak:  Archie.

 


Archie:  I thank you, I seeded my time earlier to other commitments.  Iím Archie, I live on [SDCE].  Weíre over on the north side of the area and to the west of where the fire burned down on Bellemore.  I feel bad making this comment because our experience was so completely different than so many other people who have spoken here already.  Iíll try to be brief.  We were awakened at 1:14 in the morning, I remember because the image of my alarm clock is burned indelibly in my mind, to the sounds of very high winds in the back of our property.  My wife and I both woke up almost simultaneously, at the same time we heard sirens and lots of them and we looked at each other and said this isnít good.  We looked out the bedroom window and by that time there were already embers landing on our Jacuzzi cover just outside the bedroom.  So we didnít even wait to look out the windows any further, we got dressed, went out in to the front of our home which faces kind of south and to the east.  We saw a large glow on the horizon and we did not realize at that point that it had already reached the boundaries of the Estates out near Christopherís home and Victorís home.  So we realized that evacuation was immanent.  At that time there was an awful lot of traffic in front of our house.  There were black and white units of both the sheriff and the highway patrol going up and down the street with flashing lights, they were not making announcements at that point.  We wanted to see whether the fire was progressing south or whether it was going to flank and head north to the northeast, which would bring our home into the path of the fire.  Now our home is just off of that big rocky area in the back side of the Estates, I donít know if thatís whatís called Mt. Gower or not, where I come from itís not much of a mountain, but we were already thinking evacuation.  We had awakened our daughter and were telling her to throw some things into a suitcase, by then it was 1:20, maybe 1:25.  My wife walked up the next side street to see if she could get a better view of it and just at that time 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.  We went in and jammed a few clothes in a bag, grabbed some important papers, some photos, grabbed our animals, got them into our vehicles and just as we were getting into our cars to leave, at that point a, it was a sheriffs volunteer unit came down the street with a bull horn on telling us that we must evacuate, we were way ahead of them.  At that point though we did see fire vehicles and lots of them heading up our street towards the back areas.  We saw both the green and white trucks, I believe those are Department of Forestry, we saw red trucks, we saw the bright lime green trucks, we saw fire trucks like crazy going up our street.  So we felt pretty confident that we were going to get the best protection that was available and the thing that disturbs me so much now is we got it and these other people didnít.  Our home is there, their homes are not.  I think thatís the most disturbing thing for us, so there was fire protection in our neighborhood.  The point that I would like to make is that if you look at the areas within the Estates, not around the boundaries but within the Estates itself that seems somewhat schizophrenic in the ones that burned and the ones that didnít.  Youíll find that the ones that burned all backed up onto the open space areas and the canyons but are required by heaven knows what kind of regulation and the fire just went through those like a flue and got sucked right up those areas and picked off homes at random well inside of the Estates.  You look at the area on Watt Road for example that ultimately jumped over the Stone Mountain and ultimately stopped at the golf course.  Wikiup for example, homes there, backed up onto that area.  Tesoro Way homes lost up there, once again backed up onto those open areas and the folks in the Estates do a darn good job of keeping the brush cleared, theyíve got a full time crew that does that, even with that work in place, it was not enough to keep the flames from getting inside the community and potentially burning it from the inside out.  We were in our vehicles by 1:45 at the very latest, only having been aware of it for a half an hour and only had warning at that point by no more than ten minutes, we went out via Gunn Stage Road and San Vicente Road.  A large roadblock was set up at that intersection there by the strip mall.  There were fire vehicles streaming into the area at that point and the only thing there, more than fire vehicles, were pick up trucks pulling horse trailers and God Bless those people.  We know it did a lot of good.  From there on out it took us approximately twenty minutes to get through that intersection on towards the high school because of the heavy traffic.  This is one of the areas where the Estates is particularly vulnerable in that we only have one good way out and one not so good way out.  With the volume of traffic that was hitting that area they were moving cars through there as fast as they possibly could but their first mission seemed not to be getting the cars out but keeping other cars from coming in.  Seemed a little backwards to us at the moment but since we were on the way out we really didnít care.  By 1:50 in the morning we were clear of the Estates and didnít return home for two days so thatís the timeline that we saw and we saw some things that were really different than some of these people that lost their homes.  One of the questions that should be asked is what was the chain of command or the chain of events that lead all those fire vehicles to be in our neighborhoods where as they werenít in other neighborhoods and thatís about all I have to offer.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 


Abby:  I have a different perspective myself, my name is Abby, I live at [SDCE].  We were in Descanso and left Descanso between 5:00 and 6:00, weíre not sure time wise, weíre doing a little sightseeing on Boulder Oaks and passed forest service units with sirens going, heading down Boulder Oaks towards the Cedar Creek Area.  Yes, on the 25th.  We came around through, because we had horses so we were getting in time we needed a good hour to get home from there and we were going through Cuyamaca.  Came through Cuyamaca and past units which were CDF units coming up and we were probably west, Iím having a hard time pinpointing between west of Pine Hills, I know that we were west of Pine, at least west of Pine Hills and past units coming up with their sirens and red lights going and at that time we just thought, gosh thereís got to be a fire someplace and thatís about all we thought.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Abby:  I donít know.

 

Diane Conklin:  Morning or afternoon?

 

Abby:  Oh no, no, no.  5:00 in the afternoon between 5:00 and 6:00 in the afternoon is when we had past the units and we left Descanso.  At 9:30 Saturday night we had the people that we had left in Descanso, they have a view through Cuyamaca and they called wanting to know if we knew where the fire was, they could see the glow, so from 9:30 on I was watching it and also calling friends.  I have a friend who has a ranch, friends who have ranches up in Santa Ysabel and from where I look if you go out the back side of our house and weíre out on a back porch deck I can see back out the area towards Ramona Oaks and which we call that the big valley, the gorge, everybody else was calling the gorge, we call it the big valley, it looked like it was up on Tulock Ranch and I called and she had said it was on the other side of the big valley, nothing to worry about and I had also called her daughter who they had gone out looking for it and couldnít find it.  Ultimately 80% of the Tulock Ranch burned after it came back and doubled back, however the fire went.  About, Iím guessing it was midnight without the clocks being set back I had kept looking, our bedroom window faces east so I kept looking out and my husband got up to go to the bathroom and about that time I looked out the window and said, ďI see flames,Ē he said, ďIím getting dressed.Ē  I picked up the phone and two doors down from us we have a really close friend whoís husband with CDF who recently passed away so I knew if she knew anything about the fire she always had the scanner going so I had called her and I said Linda I see flames and she went okay and that was the last I talked to her for twenty four hours at least.  She, her children live across the street, I made three phone calls, one of them including to the people who were talking about where I have the video, they evacuated with us because when I called her she was hysterical, I didnít even know they knew about the fire and she was hysterical, they had been closing everything down so Iím guessing time wise it had to been about between probably about 12:30 and I never saw the fire.  At that point I picked up the phone, called a friend and said, ďweíre surrounded by fire, weíre on our way down,Ē and by the time this other friend got there, the one who had the video, we were loading horses and she had left with my husband and her husband and some of our other animals and by the time I just told them Iíd meet them at the ranch and then I doubled back and came back about 1:30, Iím thinking, is that about the time we left the ranch to come back in, itís about twenty minutes to a half hour to get back in, I had forgotten medications and they did, they didnít want to let me in but did let me in and at that time it was burning down behind our house and let me tell you about the wind even burning towards our house, my house was very hot and the embers were just totally blowing past the oak trees were on fire and it was on fire behind, weíre pretty clear behind and it was burning through what we call kind of a pasture area that weíve totally kept clear and there were fire units on our street at that time, at least two that I recalled but they were, I was assuming they were monitoring up further and we had also at the time that we evacuated and left we had full units come through including a helicopter going through with bullhorns and sirens and everything to tell us to evacuate which would probably been around midnight, 12:30 some time around that time without the clocks being set back, thatís what Iím guessing and truly Iím guessing, it was in that period.

 

Bob Krysak:  You say helicopter?

 

Abby:  There was a helicopter and there was, they were going through with sirens, I had made about, I made three phone calls and then we just started packing up, getting our stuff and getting out and I too left in my pajamas and when I came back in I couldnít get out of my house fast enough.  I have a cedar house with three wooden decks that I donít know about with Ramona but after a fifteen year old house thatís only been oiled once, itís dry and I thought Iím getting out of there, grabbed the last animal that we couldnít catch and picked up medication and grabbed a couple other things and left. 

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Abby:  No, our house, we did not loose one house on [] and our next door neighbor who he is a firefighter at the time said to my husband said thereís nothing to worry about, he said weíre okay but the way the winds going, plus we so totally cleared behind us even down if I am, Iím going to be real honest, if I would have let the girl whoís husband was CDF clear when my husband and he wanted very much to clear the brush out under the oaks behind us, Iím going no because that far down thatís down in that river bed down there our oaks wouldnít have even burned because the ones that are west of us did not burn but then a few houses down further that would have been on Pappas, one that we called the tree house that was a cedar house sat virtually in the oaks and that one went to the ground and took a couple others with it when it went but at that time, by the time that I saw it from 9:30 and I monitored it the entire time till when I saw flames, by the time he got dressed and I had made a few phone calls when I had just seen flames at the east end of Ramona Oaks we were surrounded so thatís how fast that fire moved.  I just feel there wasnít anything you could do at that time other than watch, I mean it was just, it was beyond belief as to how fast and when I saw the video tape I just, my whole body was just seeping up because I literally never saw it look like that, we were too busy getting out but it was after the fact and where we evacuated to we were threatened by Paradise Fire down there and so that one we stayed, we were gone a week before we came home.  Time wise thatísÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  Bob and Betty.

 


Bob:  Hi, Iím Bob, this is my wife Betty.  Weíre from [MG Village], weíre on Mussey Grade Road and we saw the fire coming down the road, well we didnít see it, what happened was the wind woke us up at 3:30 in the morning, we looked over the horizon and there was this orange glow covering the entire southern hemisphere.  I didnít believe it was fire for a few minutes, I thought it was too big, it was impossible and so we watched it for a while, we collected the laundry off the line and things like that, we never really believed the fire was actually going to make it that far up to us.  Around daybreak I went down, drove down Mussey Grade Road to the lake there was a couple of sheriff units down there and the fire was coming up the hill, still the fire line was still visible from the lake itself.  The flames were only a foot or two high down there, they could have fought it easily down there and won easily with shovels but nobody was there, just two units from the sheriff department and so we went back home and realized it was going to be bad, still didnít believe it was going to burn our home down however.  I started packing clothes and the dogs and got ready to evacuate.  We took everything out of there around 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning and Betty and I came back, first I came back with my sister-in-law and got my motorcycle out of there and then Betty and I came back around 8:00 and wet everything down with the hoses and it seemed like it was probably going to burn past us and our house may make it, we wet everything down real good and then all of the sudden this huge black column of smoke started roaring down the valley like 60 or 70 miles an hour, it was incredible, we jumped in the truck and left (inaudible).

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Bob:  I actually called 911 eight or ten times, it wasnít easy but I did get through.

 

Bob Krysak:  What times?

 

Bob:  Everything from between from the time we got up around 3:30 in the morning up until 8:00, eight to ten times and I did get through and transferred to CDF dispatch or where they transferred me to, they just kept telling me to get out, get out, get out, donít tell me what I already know, I want to know when the fire trucks are getting here.  I was frantically yelling at them on the phone and still no fire trucks ever showed up.

 

Bob Krysak:  Did they respond to you as to what fire trucks were on the way during your 911 calls?  Or were they just telling you to get out?

 

Bob:  They just kept telling me to get out.  The 911 operators only told me to get out and then they transferred me to the CDF and I donít remember what exactly they told me, I was too frantic.  No fire engines ever did show up until 2:00 PM that day when the fire was approximately three miles past me to the north coming toward the highway and then they started hitting it with a lot of water bombers, fire retardant, they did an incredible job at that time.

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible).

 

Bob:  Yeah, they saved those people, that big ranch behind it.  At that point they were doing a real good job and uhÖ

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Bob Krysak:  No some people have come here and have been sitting here for three to four hours already and Iíd like to give them the option to choose not to speak today or come back on Thursday.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible)

 

Laura Madden:  I just have a question, we came today to this meeting, my question is what are you guys planning to do, we lost everything.

 

Bob Krysak:  What are we planning to do?

 

Betty:  (Inaudible).

 

Bob:  We missed the first thirty minutes of your meeting.


Betty:  Because (inaudible) but they didnít, everythingís gone so what are you planning to help us to recover everything?

 

Bob Krysak:  Our position is to write a report that is when all the facts are learned from this meetings and provide them to the various agencies that are investigating the fire to determine what if any culpability there is (Inaudible).  As far as what kind of, are you talking about financial assistance, none.  (Inaudible) to bring lawsuits or they can do whatever they want to do, thatís their option to do that, weíre not doing, (inaudible), weíre just gathering the facts and generate a report by what happened in the fire, what could have or should have been done differently and what people suffered as a result of that.

 

Betty:   (Inaudible).

 

Bob Krysak:  We donít know what until we write the report.

 

Bob:  Then what will be revealed at the conclusion of this meeting?

 

Bob Krysak:  When, again when we have a report, there will be public notice when the report is ready and you can access a public document for that (inaudible).

 

Kit Kessinger:  The last meeting of this series is this Thursday so after this last meeting weíll start working on, weíll get together and talk about.

 

Bob:  Sometime beforeÖ

 

Kit Kessinger:  It will take a little while

 

Bob:  Before you completeÖ

 

Unidentified Speaker:  (Inaudible)

 

Unidentified Speaker:  I didnít see anybody bring up the fact about the sheriffs helicopter that was on its way at 4:30 Saturday, the day of the fire beginning and it was turned around.

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible).

 

Unidentified Speaker:  It had a bucket and on its way and they turned it aroundÖ(end of tape).