RMWD CEDAR FIRE HEARINGS

SESSION 3

 
Miscellaneous
Diane Conklin
Christopher
Dale
Edgar
Frank
Gilbert
Hanna and Hank
Isaac
Judy
Kathleen
Leon
Joseph Mitchell
Diane Conklin
Mack
Ned
Patty
Renee and Reggie
Sally
Ted

 

Miscellaneous Issues

Kit Kessinger:  Örequiring only that driveways be paved on new construction or replacement construction.  There has been some talk around the county about requiring that the entire access be up to county standards, that means paved and with a certain width all the way out to whatever, out to a highway, however that is not currently a requirement itís simply being talked about by the county.  Itís something that Steve is telling people when they call his office he feels that the citizens should be aware that there is a potential that sometime in the future that requirement might go into place although Iím not sure how much of a potential.  As of today, no, we the Ramona Fire District, Ramona Water District and also the county are only requiring the driveways be paved and I should say that there are additional requirements for steep slopes on certain areas but thatís aside from the fire.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  The county doesnít even pave itís own roads, are we supposed to pave those too?

 

Kit Kessinger:  Quite often the case, however, like I said, as of right now there is no requirement that we pave the road.  Thatís the driveway, if you go in and process your permits right now and if you go into the fire marshal here in Ramona thatís the only requirement theyíll place as far as pavement goes.  And we didnít talk about the sprinklers.

 


Bob Krysak:  My understanding of the sprinkler issue is that the county is consistently requiring that new construction contain sprinklers in the residence, you may have read in the paper this morning, it is waiving many requirements for sprinklers in new construction and theyíre really getting into hot water with the county.  The county is ready to jump all over them but the county is very insistent and theyíve been very consistent across the board in requiring that all new construction have sprinkler systems built into the house.  See with the driveway issue the reason they donít really have a really strong leg to stand on, although they are the 800 pound beast and they donít need very strong legs, historically there has not been consistent application of that requirement, theyíre going to find it very difficult to all of the sudden in the wake of the fire victims, all of the sudden decide to impose that condition across the board.  I think that gives the residents some leverage, however with the sprinkler issue, they have been very consistent in maintaining so there will be no question of preference or sudden decisions that theyíve made so it looks like they are going to require the sprinklers but not at this point, but that could change.  Thatís all within the county verbiage.

 

Kit Kessinger:  I think itís good for anyone to put your permit applications in as soon as possible in case of any kinds of changes like that.  On another note at the beginning of this meeting this is our third meeting so weíve had two up to this point and Iíd have to say that the testimony that people have made has been quite an eye opener to me and I think also to Bob and to many others who have participated.  Weíve learned a lot about what happened to you and to the community and frankly your participation in this and I see many faces that Iíve seen at previous meetings, your participation has really been a valuable thing for this water district.  I hope and I believe that it will be valuable thing for those agencies that are reviewing the Cedar Fire so I want to thank you all very much for coming and helping us in this process and telling us what you know about that disaster.

 

Bob Krysak:  Also one other thing that I havenít actually pointed out before is even beyond just submitting our report to the agencies and then washing our hands of it weíre also going to be looking to some remedial activities that we as a district or as a community can undertake ourselves, in absence of county action.  A lot of the issues that weíre talking about, evacuation plan, county wide unified fire departments, which frankly I donít know if thatís a good idea or not, I have to look at it more, I would think not, especially for a community like us outside that no one ever hears of, but we will be looking remedially within our own organization to determine what we can do on a local level without the county.  Weíll try to facilitate some plans to help theses citizens in such an emergency.  Diane do you have anything youíd like to say?

 


Diane Conklin:  Diane Conklin, 19412 Kimball Valley Road, I am the spokesperson for the Mussey Grade Road Alliance and I have a sore throat so bare with me.  First of all I want to thank you Kit for checking on the paving issue, itís a very important issue.  I had heard from a source today and I donít think he thought he was going to be quoted so Iím not going to mention his name, that he had spoken with Fire Marshall Delgadio as well and that Fire Marshall Delgadio had said, and this is of course, second hand that those homes that did not pave the road would have do not protect stamped on their plans so I think thatís a rather silly idea because since we have homes on roads that have burned and homes on the same road that have not burned not to protect one means that you put all in danger so I donít think that would be realistic.  If there are any changes that are drastic I certainly would hope that the water board would inform the Mussey Grade Road Alliance becauseÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  Weíd inform the whole community.

 

Diane Conklin:  Good and Iíd like to get a call personally because weíre very concerned about the issue but thank you very much for clarifying it at least to this extent that it is only the driveway and that this has been checked into by the water district and by dent of the contract with the CDF, Fire Marshall Delgadio is an employee of the water district.

 

Kit Kessinger:  On that same note, he also made it clear that he had no intention of changing his policy however there was the potential that he might be forced by other agencies.

 

Diane Conklin:  Well itís really interesting isnít it because we had a meeting with Supervisor Diane Jacob on Tuesday and she said we have to check with the fire marshal, so you know how this goes.

 

Bob Krysak:  The only way thatís going to happen is if the county mandates.

 

Diane Conklin:  All right, thatís great, Iím glad to hear that, thank you Bob.  The second thing Iíd like to do just on a housekeeping item is to say that we talked to you last time about the list of commissions that you would be sending this to.  Bobís answer was you send it to everyone, thatís excellent, what weíd like to do if we can, request this, and obviously we can, and then hopefully you can help us with this as to when you send it out to the commissions you can give us a letter with the report saying where it went so we can have that and weíd also like the water board to announce somehow in the newspaper or through meetings, regular meetings, how individuals can get copies of the report and what they would cost.  We would request that you use as much testimony as possible and any written materials that you deem important that have been submitted, ideally I think that unless you have a huge number of written materials it would be good to submit all of them, unfortunately those people who have submitted written materials didnít always sign their name and date the information and so I donít know how useful those are.  Iíd like to remind people that if they submit anything to the water board that the questionnaire was an idea of questions, it wasnít meant to be an actual questionnaire but it could be used that way of course but you need to sign it and date it because thereís no signature line or date line.  I would like to request if the water board could please, this Ad Hoc Committee of the water board could please extend the written submissions untilÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  I already did that Diane.

 

Diane Conklin:  Until what date?

 

Bob Krysak:  Until whenever they come in and if we havenít done report weíllÖ

 

Diane Conklin:  Okay excellent, I didnít hear youÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  Iím not going to close anyone down.

 

Diane Conklin:  Okay fine, I didnít hear you but I was thinking to extend it to at least a week, Friday, February 6th to make it feasible for you to start your report writing.  I didnít want to have, I think if people havenít submitted by next Friday, they probably wonít.

 

Bob Krysak:  Itís all on the computer so if something comes the day before the report is finalized we can certainly incorporate the informationÖ

 

Diane Conklin:  Thatís very generous of you and then that means folks that we have copies here for you, the Mussey Grade Road Alliance has made copies of these, the yellow one is the letter that was sent out and the white one is the questionnaire and Iím going to be sitting over there stapling these together and put them in the back.  If you havenít filled one of these out, even though youíre going to speak today, or if you havenít written anything down and youíve submitted it in writing then please, please do so because the written record is very important even though we have a video record and we have the audio records too, these will be put back over here.  Okay fine, thank you very much, then I would like to say that Iím going to submit to you today some of the documents that I had a hand in presenting, helping you with and presenting to you actually.  These are actually all the things that I did present to you and that I may reserve the right to produce something else later but I understand that the water board, the Ad Hoc Committee will be writing the report, that you all will be writing the report and I think thatís the way weíre going to have to do that.  There was at one time, and I did, we would write it together but I donít think it will work that way but I do want to say that the cooperation from Bob Krysak has been outstanding and heís been very polite and heís been timely and heís also is trying to make a living and I really appreciate that.

 

Bob Krysak:  All right.

 

Diane Conklin:  Now I have a little talk Iíd like to give in advance and then Iím going to stop.  President Krysak, Director Kessinger, Mussey Grade Road Alliance members, friends and Ramona citizens.  This is our final hearing in a series of three hearings conducted by the Ramona Municipal Water District at the request of the alliance.  We believe these hearings will help the district to understand the great pain and suffering that has been inflicted on the victims of the Cedar Fire both as individuals and as community members.  The fire has not gone away and it will not go away until there is full recovery for victims and justice for entire communities within Ramona.  One of those communities is Mussey Grade Road and itís environs.  We do not blame individual firefighters and they are not part, the party to whom we turn for justice.  We turn rather to the Water District, which collects our money for fire protection.  To the district we say once again it is imperative that you write a fair, balanced and informed report based on the individual testimonies you have heard and will hear again this evening and send this report on to the commissions investigating the fire.  We rely on your understanding and compassion in this endeavor and what should that report say?  We have learned many important things as a result of these hearings.  We have learned that calls were made to 911 as early as 4:15 PM on Saturday, October 25th, the first day of the fire.  We have learned that inadequate notification was given to Ramonians and areas through which the fire passed and that people may have died if their neighbors had not called them.  We have learned whole areas of Ramona did not receive fire protection and support.  We have learned that houses in the Mussey Grade corridor burned down after the head of the fire passed through, hours later, houses that could have been saved if an effort had been made to save them.  We have learned that inaccurate information regarding the progress of the fire in the Mussey Grade area including information that everything in the Fernbrook area was destroyed, was given to residence while the fire was still in progress.  We have learned that not a single fire engine arrived and stayed to fight the fire in Fernbrook.  We have learned that our fire protection was non-existent as it applied to this catastrophe.  On behalf of the Alliance, I want to thank all the citizens of Ramona who came forth to make this hearing exercise a true success.  I also want to thank the district Ad Hoc Committee for its cooperation and support in this hearings process.  We look forward to receiving all the written documentation provided to the district and eventually the full report.  Our quest for recovery and justice remains strong.  We are determined to get to the truth, most especially so that this disaster will never happen again.  Thank you.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thank you.


Kit Kessinger:  Diane, Diane, Iíd like to ask you a couple of questions.  One of them you just answered by giving us a copy of this, thank you very much.  The other one is, this is our last meeting where weíre taking public testimony.  Do you, I know youíve been in contact with a lot of individuals about coming and speaking here, do you know of individuals who have not had the opportunity or had not taken the opportunity to come to these meetings?

 

Diane Conklin:  Unfortunately there is a number of people who havenít come to the meetings, I think that we have a problem of sampling.  Weíre only going to have a sample because even so the number of letters that were sent out went only to around 130 families rather than the 190 that are listed and that was partially because, wholly because the list obviously was given to the district and partially because the individuals in Mussey Grade Village did not receive individual notification.  The other problem is people, often times, have left the area, people have reacted differently to this, theyíve gone on vacation, theyíve gone to visit relatives, theyíre gone.  If they are, as I said before in the last meeting, if they are around and they havenít come, sometimes the reason might be is that they just feel incapable of speaking about it.  So what I think is that the Ramona Municipal Water District has tried to give adequate notice to people to come to these hearings, I have never seen the kind of cooperation youíve received from these hearings in any other, with any other issue in Ramona, even though many issues are very very hot like for example, planning, land use issues, but this has been an extended series of meetings and I think youíve gotten fairly good cooperation.  I certainly think that themes have arisen from the hearings and as to the actual facts; well those will be determined by other commissions as weíve already discussed.  You donít have the infrastructure but at least you have done this bit, which is to try and find out what people on the ground saw.  I think that the report will be of great interest to the Blue Ribbon Commission of San Diego, it should be of great interest to the San Diego County Fire Safety Committee, it should be of great interest to the Governorís Commission, it should be of great interest to Sue Hisari who was the person heading up the investigation called for by CDF Chief Manor who is the top CDF official in San Diego and the U.S. Forest Service and I think that at least those four or five bodies should receive it, if not more.  So itís not going to be perfect but, excuse me, Iím so glad that you, weíve done at least this much together.

 

Kit Kessinger:  Thank you.


Bob Krysak:  For everyoneís information my number, my home number and my office number are listed in the Orange Book and if anyone ever wants to call me, just look it up in the Orange Book, and Iíll be glad to talk to anyone and get more information.  All right, letís get started now that all of the politicians have gotten their wind out.  First speaker I have is Christopher.

 


Christopher:  Thank you Bob.  First, the last meeting I mentioned that a neighbor of ours, by the way Christopher, [San Diego Country Estates].  A neighbor of ours video taped the fire and I said Iíd get you a copy and I do have one here and it was filmed by XXX and she approved of me bringing the tape to you and also said that if you or anyone else wanted to talk to her, I neglected to get her phone number but itís under either XXXX and itís a vivid description of how savage the fire was as she filmed it as it was coming up, they live at the top of the hill on the left side of the end of Ramona Oaks and we lived at the top of the hill on the right side and she filmed that fire coming up there and the fact that there was one or two police cars that went by, this was probably around 12:00 or 12:30, no fire trucks, and it was particularly vivid for me because as the flames got up on the ridge and hit my house is when it just exploded and the flames were extremely high at that point and itís a great piece of film work of a tragedy and again if you want more.  She also said that Tom McPherson, I donít know who he is; heís with the CDF I believe.

 

Bob Krysak:  I know Tom.

 

Christopher:  He has a copy of it to. 


Bob Krysak:  Have you looked at it Christopher?

 

Christopher:  Yes I have.

 

Bob Krysak:  Are there any fire trucks in it, in any of the video?

 

Christopher:  No.  Thereís two scenes where the police patrol car with the lights flashing drove up on the, I think itís Shalom at the end of Ramona Oaks, turned around and came back out but there were no fire trucks and the other interesting part of the film is as you view it, as she left the house to evacuate and her husband was driving behind her, she inadvertently panned across the dash of her car and it recorded the time and I talked to her today, I believe it was 1:10 and I asked her if she had changed the clock on the car with daylight saving come up and she said no she had not so that time would be based on whatever the time was earlier in the day.  From a personal standpoint, just to give you what happened to us, we obviously lost our house in the fire.  We probably were the first house in the Estates to go, weíre at the eastern most point of the Estates [] and one of the choice lots from a view standpoint and obviously one of the choice lots for the fire to hit although we firmly believe that it could have been avoided.  We were first notified of the fire about 5:30, maybe a little before, by a friend that lives up on the other side of the Estates, up on the ridge, and he called to see if we were aware of the fire and at that point we were not.  It was a very very small fire, just a small curl of smoke coming up, way back on the other side of the river, up there in the hills.

 

Bob Krysak:  Do you have an idea of the distance?  I know itís hard to judge distance.

 

Christopher:  Several miles on the other side of the river so Iíd say it was probably five to seven miles from our place and so I told him I would immediately call 911 and he said, ďI already have,Ē and that was Perry Jones and he isnít positive of the time because at that point in time I donít think anyone was pinpointing time as being a critical part of the scenario, it was, what do we do?  Anyhow, we watched it, it didnít seem to be growing at all, it was still a very small fire.  We left the house about 6:00 and just went down to the club and had dinner, came home around 9:00.  Between 9:00 and 9:15, I think a CDF firemen, I didnít try to identify him, pulled up in the driveway in a pick up truck, had a flasher on his dash and I asked him whether or not he thought we were going to have to evacuate or whether it would be contained, and Iím not blaming him, he was giving his best opinion and he was on the radio talking to people down on the fire line I guess, but he said, ďno I donít think thereís any problem at all up here, itís in an inaccessible area at the present time and when it burns down close to the river bottom theyíll be a crew down there and we should be able to contain it without any danger up here.Ē

 

Bob Krysak:  He said that to you directly?

 

Christopher:  Yes.

 

Bob Krysak:  You heard that from him?

 

Christopher:  Yes.  He was, and Iím sorry I canít identify him, and maybe thatís good, I donít know.

 

Unidentified Speaker:  What time was that?

 

Christopher:  Between 9:00 and 9:30.  At that time I had no reason to question it, if it looked like, weíve had the 22 years weíve lived there, there have been numerous small fires back there that have always been put out and so we didnít think too much about it.  We kept an eye on it and then about, I would think probably around 11:30 the wind started bring, coming up a little bit and then at that point we could see the fire was starting to move.  It was still back on the other side of the river and then we became alarmed and started gathering some stuff to put in the car, I think that the CDF or the fire department says that they went over in a helicopter and advised people to prepare for evacuation.  Iím certainly not saying they did not, we did not hear it, that doesnít mean it didnít happen and then we were loading the cars and getting ready to evacuate and this was probably about 12:30 and it was obvious we were in big trouble, the Santa Ana had kicked up and the fire was moving, it jumped the river.  I talked to one of the CDF people that was not on the fire but was out there, more or less a volunteer, and he said that the fire moved from the start down to the San Diego River, probably four or five miles in four to five hours, it moved from the river bottom up to the Estates in less than 45 minutes so when that Santa Ana kicked in it literally got out of control at that point and my wife was on the phone with, tried to get a hold of 911, frantically to tell them weíre in real trouble, we got to have some fire protection out here, and I was out on the back patio with a garden hose foolishly thinking I could do some good with wetting down the decks and so forth and I think it was the same fireman, Iím not positive on that, came up into the top of the driveway, weíve got a curved driveway that goes up to the top and he said, ďyou have to get out of here right now,Ē I said,  ďwell Iím trying to wet things down and hold on until thereís a fire truck that gets here,Ē and he said, ďthere arenít going to be any fire trucks,Ē and unfortunately he was right, and he didnít explain, he said, ďthere are none available and you must evacuate, I demand that you do.Ē  I was going to stay and my wife said she wouldnít leave unless I did so we, I guess right, got into the two cars and left.  I stopped, I sent her on down to the club house, I stopped down on Ramona Oaks, probably a half a mile down and parked and tried to, I thought I would walk back up because I wanted to get back up to the house and there were several sheriffs down there and they stopped me and again Iím sure they were doing exactly the right thing.

 

Bob Krysak:  What time was this?

 

Christopher:  Probably 12:30, a quarter of 1:00, pretty close to the time that YYYY was evacuating their house and of course we stayed down in the lodge around the spare room down there and one of our neighbors came through probably an hour or two later and I saw him and he said, ďChristopher,Ē he said, ďI was up close, I walked back up and he said your house is gone,Ē and then we watched some of the houses on the ridge on the other side of the Estates that were burning so the fire department, the CDF maintains that the blaze was virtually unstoppable when it got to that point.  Iím not a fireman and I canít judge.  The one fireman that I talked to said, ďif we had been able to get a truck up there at the last minute,Ē he said, ďweíd had lost the truck and the firemen along with your house.Ē  Now, I canít judge on that and I canít deny it.  Iíd never seen anything like it in my life.  The fire was probably, I would judge, a quarter of the mile, maybe a half a mile away, the actual fire, and the burning embers and the flying brush was coming across at almost a vertical, or horizontal I mean, level and that obviously is what hit the house.  I had earlier in the evening, when I first knew we were going to evacuate, I shut off the propane tank, pulled the drapes away from the windows because they say the heat from the windows can start a fire just from the drapes and then was attempting to wet it down.  Earlier than that, a year or more ago, in fact quite some time ago, I had cleared my land back, clear back, we back up to the Cleveland National Forest and I had cleared everything right down to the Cleveland National Forest line which is well over 100 feet and then the other vegetation around there was basically ice plant and so forth.  It was moving at such a high volume and a rate of speed that it didnít, a hundred feet just meant nothing at that point.  Iím not saying it doesnít help in a small fire so that basically is what happened to us.  Weíd gone through the trauma I guess that all of you have that lost your homes, debating what to do.  We went over and spent a week in Henderson, Nevada and thought we were going to get out of here, thought more about it and weíre now dealing with an architect and a contractor and weíre going to rebuild.

 

Bob Krysak:  Christopher, back to the 12:30, 12:45 period when you tried to walk back up to the house and were stopped by sheriffsÖ

 

Christopher:  Yes.


Bob Krysak:  Were there any fire trucks in the area or just the sheriffsí cars?

 

Christopher:  There was a couple of fire trucks that came up Ramona Oaks as I was leaving but I donít recall any of them when I was attempting to get back up.  There may have been and there may have been one or two that went up on the side street, Iím not sure.  The fellow that I talked to with the CDF and he asked me not to quote him and he talked very frankly, he said that they had called and they asked for 25 teams, he said we got to have 25 teams in the Estates and the dispatcher said we donít have 25 teams, everything has virtually been sent up to Julian because they thought they could get in and fight the fire from the Julian side, they knew they couldnít get in from down below.  It seemed that there was some confusion on their part, maybe understandably, on how to access that area from the ground.

 

Bob Krysak:  So youíre impression, there was no local knowledge of the area.  Thatís one of the things, everyone being pulled away from this area, people out fighting the fire were not local people who had local knowledge of the terrain or the roads or anything like that.

 

Christopher:  It was my understanding that the units that were sent to Julian were at least, part of them were local units, the end of that story was, they said we can send you three units but itís going to be a little while before they can get there.  Well obviously it was too late, by the time they got there I guess they looked at the street that Iím on and were, Kenís house is right next door, his house burned, they decided it was too late to save those and they dropped back to a, but my concern and really anger I guess is not that we didnít have the fire protection at the point when the flames hit us, it was probably too late at that point to do anything, what I have a hard time understanding is why we didnít get out there and take care of it when it was a small fire and you know you get a lot of pros and cons on could the helicopter have gone in with air drops at the appropriate time even though it was getting close to the, what, the half hour before sunset and itís easy to blame the dispatcher, itís easy to blame and helicopter pilot, personally if I had been flying the thing Iíd say go to hell, Iím going to bring in some more water but thatís easy to say when you look back and you werenít the guy there so Iím not, suffice to say I think the, 90% if not all of the fire could have been avoided if it had been attacked at the point when it was just a very very small fire allegedly set by this nut who was out there hunting and didnít know what to do when he got lost.  And I say allegedly so.

 

Bob Krysak:  Right.  Everyone is telling us that the fire started around the Cedar Falls area.  Are you familiar enough with the terrain behind your house to know whether thatís an accurate assessment because weíve heard testimony that was actually two or three miles from there where the fire started?

 

Christopher:  Well it looked to me, Ed maybe you have a betterÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  Thatís who we have the testimony from.

 

Christopher:  Yeah, it looked to me like it was north of Cedar Falls, although at night and looking out there, and you have at that time, it was just a fairly small glow, and initially there was virtually no ground wind out there at all.  The smoke curled up and just went right straight up until it got to a fairly high altitude before it started blooming so I think it could have been fairly easily contained at that point if they had either had air or ground support to knock it down.

 

Kit Kessinger:  Christopher, north of Cedar Falls would be closer to the San Diego River then?

 

Christopher:  Be what?

 

Kit Kessinger: Closer to the San Diego River?

 

Christopher:  Well the San Diego River kind of meanders up there, Iím sure it was way on the other side.  When I say north of Cedar Falls, I think it was beyond Cedar Falls and then north.

 

Unidentified Audience:  (Inaudible).

 

Christopher:  Yep.  Okay.

 

Bob Krysak:  Anything else?

 

Christopher:  Nope, other than, probably all of you, I read in the paper this morning, I think it was the Lake City Fire Department had had a meeting similar to this only the testimony was being given by fire department personnel who said hereís where we were, what, when, why and where and I think that would be extremely valuable and probably tough on the fire department people but I think rather than, and this is good, donít misunderstand me and I appreciate the opportunity but instead of a lot of us saying hereís what we think happened, it would be very helpful to have the fire crews say hereís what happened, we were here, we were pulled off and we were sent to Julian or we were here and we were told not to go there.  You could have gotten Mussey Grade but we werenít allowed.  Whatever the situation was.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thatís the next step of this committee is to meet with CDF and the U.S. Department of Forestry and get, now that we got all the public input from the ground we want them to explain to us what happened so that will be melded together in the final report.


Christopher:  Very good and thank you very much for the interest that the Water Board is showing this whole thing and I appreciate the fact that youíre intent is not to have this as a hearing for dress and then forget it, itís going to move forward and take some action, whatever needs to be done.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thank you Christopher.  Dale.  Dale.

 


Dale:  My name is Dale and my wife and I live at [Mussey Grade].  If you live down there, this was the house, remember it?  Yeah, yeah, we spent about 18 months and a lot of money of ours and a lot of money of the banks, we ran out of money at one bank and went to another bank and got more money and anyhow.  It was about 6:30, I got a phone call on my cell phone since weíre camping basically out there, working on the property for the last 18 months, from a friend in Escondido and he said, ďyou were on fire, it was on the news,Ē and so we knew something was different because it was, the light wasnít right in the morning and so we went out and looked and sure enough we could see in the southern area, back in through there, there were some red clouds so I got up on top of the house, being a tall house I could see quite a ways and the Santa Anaís were blowing from east to west, typically as they do and it wasnít moving north that fast and so I said, it looked like weíre going to be okay with this thing because firemen are going to be out here and we pay a lot of good money to have them out there and thereís going to be planes in the sky real soon and theyíre going to be dropping on this thing and weíre going to be okay and plus we have a brand new road out there that was paved and thatís going to be a real nice fire break and we could get up here and make a stand right here for this.  Iíve cleared all the brush there and around and Iím a plumber by trade and so Iíve got water lines all around the property and we can soak everything down real nice and we proceeded to do that.  I started getting phone calls from my friends around there, are you guys okay, are you guys okay and then we started to notice to the east of us where the trailer park is, back in there, smoke coming from that direction over the hill.  We couldnít see the fire yet but it was coming that way and about 8:00 you could start to see the flames coming from both directions.  The fire from the south was moving about a mile an hour and then it would catch some of the underbrush and just like, it would just move, it would just go.  Iíve got some photos of it, this is looking south, everybody recognizes that, what used to be and the flames were getting pretty high and I was telling my wife we better start putting some things of value in the car and truck, animals and such as that and we had a sea land van that was kind of in the edge of the field there, solid steel, we had all of our earthly belongings in there, we figured that would be okay, itís about 30 minutes later and we figured, maybe not so we got fire sprinklers in the house, you know they made us put these in, itís a good idea so we made sure those valves were all on and the road isnít paved yet but itís sixteen foot wide just like the little fire marshal came out and stomped his foot and made sure that I was right on that and weíve got water tanks out there, make sure that we can connect our water valves to it so they can fight that fire, go boys go, so at 9:15 it started to look like Vietnam, I was a Sergeant in the Marine Core in Vietnam and you donít put a private in charge when you want to fight a battle, you put a general in charge, basically in my opinion thereís a lot of privates in charge, they didnít make the right calls.  Of course Iím taking a lot of anger out here but when you get burned out then thereís some anger to be vented, I appreciate you being here to listen to it.  When it got to this point my wife is indicating that we should leave right away and being male and stubborn we started watering things down and the flames are getting up pretty high, they were jumping and it was said by the gentleman here, it was going horizontal, the fire was, it was actually like napalm, it was leaping away and landing on things, you canít fight that.  When it got that big it was just get out of itís way, thatís all you can do and thatís basically all we could do is just get out of itís way.  Thereís not anything out there that can be built thatís worth your life so this was at 9:30, this is the photo at 9:30, see how big the fire is behind the house and we should have been gone right here, this is not a real smart picture of me, gas can in my hand, forty foot flames in the back but the truck was almost empty and I could just see me being stopped out there on the road somewhere without gas, you know, waiting on somebody and the thing dying.  You really canít tell thatís me and thatís good.  But anyhow it was almost empty and so I figured okay, but we actually took things out of the house and put away so it wouldnít cause a combustion, set them out in the middle of the field, we put things from the house into the storage container thinking the storage container would save it, well as you well know, it all melted, itís all gone, everything is just all gone and this is what we came back to.  One thing was good though, Iíve got a picture of it right here, sprinkler valves are on, intact and there was water actually running, but sprinklers are there to protect you from getting killed, well my truck protected me from getting killed.  My friend calling me at 6:30 protected me from getting killed, it wasnít anybody notifying me, nor was anybody helping fight the little brush fire that could have been fought and put away with.  You know weíve got fire jumpers in this area and California you know itís shake or bake, itís either earthquakes or weíre on fire and with that kind of reputation you would think that the privates are in charge would mandate that we have better personnel to fight these things.  If theyíre afraid of coming down Mussey Grade because of their lives, theyíre in the wrong business, theyíre firefighters because they risk their lives to protect other people.  If theyíre afraid of coming down the thing and protecting us, weíre down there fighting our own fires or getting our butts out of its way.  Theyíre out there guarding the road to keep people from coming down; youíre in the wrong business if youíre afraid of coming down and fighting a fire. Thatís my call on it and I appreciate you being here to listen to us gripe and vent. One other thing, when we were getting the planning process of building this, went to the little fire station up here, water department and they stamped red all over that front page, you got to do this, you got to do this, you got to do this, fire marshal drove down there, stood at my gate, in my property and stomped his foot at me, said, you will do this, and you will do that and I got angry at him because heís a water guy, heís a fire marshal, to stomp his foot on my property at me, telling me you will have a water tank, you will or we will not fight youÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  This is when you first built the house?

 

Dale:  Yes, you will have this road paved.  I said why, weíve got to get a truck down that thing to fight your house, we need a place to hook our hoses up to so we went through thousands and thousands of dollars, nobody there.  So if you want my road paved, come down and pave it.  And if you want, Iím going to rebuild you know, it didnít touch the guest house, it burned all the material away and probably after this meeting they probably wonít let me build on it but thatís alright.  This is the guest house spot, the fire went all the way around it, 1200 feet, thatís fine because Iím in a little trailer right now, weíre going to rebuild on this and if he wants to stamp my plans ďWill not protect,Ē thatís fine, because he wasnít there to protect it anyhow so I donít have any problem with that.  Weíll just do like we did before, weíll just leave and let it burn down, weíll fight the insurance company and weíll rebuild again.  It seems like thatís the course of nature.  So donít sit up there with all your mightiness and think youíre going to do this, youíre going to do this, youíre going to do this, when it comes down to doing something, do it.  Youíve got a contract, we have a, you have a contract with us, we have a contract with you, protect us, donít take the money and donít do anything, Iíd be embarrassed to do that, theyíd have my license.  Thank you.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thank you.  Edgar.

 


Edgar:  Edgar, I live at [Mussey Grade Road].  The best place, the best way to get into my place is going on Fernbrook Lane so I think of myself as living on Fernbrook Lane but my official address is the other.  Those two talks that we heard were so powerful, werenít they?  And I donít have anything comparable to say, my house, I will say this, I live on a hill and I can see pretty far away and there had been a couple of major fires in the past where a lot of fire trucks and police people came up there and used that as an observation point and I didnít see anything up there, from there, that contradicts things that have been said the last three days of here so I donít have anything to add there.  I partly wanted to talk to lend my support to all these things that Iíve been hearing.  This is kind of interestingÖ (end of tape)

 

ÖHe went out to the San Diego Country Estates and he helped a couple of people evacuate their homes and so on like that so I mean you could get around rather well pretty late is my point and then he finally came home about 2:30 or so and down Mussey Grade Road and we left about 8:00 or 8:30 that next morning and went down Mussey Grade Road so I donít know, Iím a little bit puzzled by why there was so much difficulty getting down there.  I canít think of any times or anything that conflicts with whatís been said.  It all makes sense.  Thank you very much.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thank you very much.

 

Unknown Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Edgar:  Yeah I went down the Mussey Grade Road way.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Edgar:  Yeah, yeah.  I did say Sunday, I did mean Saturday, thank you.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Edgar:  Well weíre not sure but I think around 8:00 or 8:30 that morning and the fire at that moment was about, literally you could step it off about 30 feet from our house and it was burning our storage areas and garage and so on.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Edgar:  Iím not sure, I remember when I left, you mean the little, you mean on Mussey Grade Road, oh I didnít see any problems on Mussey Grade Road.

 

Diane Conklin:  Was the fire along the side of the road?

 

Edgar:  No, no.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Edgar:  No, no.

 

Diane Conklin:  So weíre not talking aboutÖ(Inaudible).

 

Edgar:  Mussey Grade Road from where I enter it onÖ

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Edgar:  Right, right.  Thank you.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thank you very much, Frank.

 


Frank:  Iím Frank; I live on [SDCE].  Iím one of the fortunate ones, I didnít loose my house but despite that I have some pictures of the time the fire started so Iíll give these to you, so I have about four of these particular ones.  It was about 5:30 that I actually saw the fire when my wife actually said, I was watching TV and she said, ďthereís a fire out there,Ē and I went out there and my neighbor he said that he had reported the fire about a quarter to 5:00 to CDF so again Iím kind of confirming some of the time frames that you guys have. 

 

Unknown Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Frank:  Yes, here I zoomed in with a zoom lens, weíre fairly high up and we sat and saw that fire during that time.  I got to watch the fire pretty muchÖ

 

Unknown Speaker: (Inaudible)

 

Frank:  When you look at the picture you can see which way the winds blowing, itís blowing west to east so that means that the Santa Ana hadnít kicked in so it was about 5:30 when I took the picture.

 

Audience:  (Several people speaking at once).

 

Frank:  Unfortunately not, I donít have that in my camera and this is zooming it in, of course now youíre going to have a little bit less light when youíre zooming in on it so Iíll give these pictures to you.  We watched the fire come down the hill just like some people already talked about.  Moved down to the river and then moved around towards the south end and about 9:30.  10:00 I could feel the wind starting to shift a little bit and again about 12:00 I thought maybe I should go ahead and get some sleep because I donít know whatís going to happen so my daughter lives two blocks from me, got woke up, 3:00 I got woke up and started putting the stuff in the car and there is a mountain behind our house and Iím not too familiar with the names of some of these mountains, it just roared up the mountain like a freight train, 3:00 in the morning I left and went to Santee and in my opinion the fire is, theyíve been fighting these fires for 30 years, the CDF had and youíd think they would learn some lessons here, thereís a recipe for these fires, you need Santa Ana, hot temperatures and dry brush.  Now you canít tell me that people donít know these things exist, and thereís a lingo for these fires, you got an hour to three hours to fight the fire, if you donít fight the fire itís gone and CDF didnít try to fight the fires so I blame CDF for not making the attempt and if they had failed, okay itís going to be this way and when the fire gets out of control, like it is, you can have all the equipment from the United States here trying to fight the fire four, five, ten hours later, youíre not going to put it out, these fires are not to break, itís too late, you canít fight a fire thatís forty-five miles wide or whatever it turned out to be, it has to burn itself out so getting the fire department to get more equipment is really not the answer, prevention is the answer.  We got technology that can look at cigarettes from space and identify the cigarette on the ground.  Come on weíre not in the age that we canít detect fires so prevention is one of the things, identifying the fires in a certain time frame and getting the fire addressed, if you loose it at that time at least you tried it so, they didnít try it so they failed.  Thank you.

 

Bob Krysak:  I have a question; you said your neighbor had indicated that he called CDF at 4:45?

 

Frank:  Thatís correct.

 

Bob Krysak:  Is it CDF or 911?

 

Frank:  No CDF because my neighbor, my other neighbor dialed 911, he was at the end of the Estates, one gentleman said that he had notified the fire department at that point, he was there, came up to the house and he sat there and said, ďlook at the fire out there,Ē and I said, ďwhat time did you call,Ē he said ďabout 5:45,Ē and I took the pictures about 5:30.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thank you.  Gilbert.

 


Gilbert:  Iíd like to thank you for pronouncing my name right.  My name is Gilbert, I live at  [San Pasqual Valley] Road down by the Wild Animal Park now.  Iím a twenty-four year police officer with the City of San Diego and me and my family rented a house at [Fernbrook] for the last eleven years.  [].  Most people know it better as behind Kitty & Iraís Cafť.  There are two other houses back there besides ours and my house was against the southern ridge.  The ridge was heavily overgrown with brush and it was largely wilderness all the way back to Kimball Valley, thatís why I moved out there, thatís what I liked about it, I also knew that I was in a dangerous area for fires but I accepted that risk eleven years ago when I moved out there.  I had cleared the brush around our house but I had only about twenty feet of clearance in the back, in the back yard, and then the property after that was somebody elseís.  Our story began on Saturday evening October 25th.  It was my wifeís birthday and we went down to Lakeside for dinner, we came home around 9:30 PM and as we drove through the pass at Mt. Woodson we could look out across the Ramona Valley and we could see the fire then, and it appeared to be way over on the other side of Ramona and we werenít too alarmed because it didnít look that big and we were used to seeing those kinds of things over the years.  In fact we even decided to drive toward it to get a better look just for fun but I changed my mind when I remembered that I had to go to work the next morning so we got home at 11:00 PM.  Everything in our area, down on Mussey Grade, seemed to be normal at that time and we went to bed.  I got up for work at approximately 3:45 AM and was just starting to get ready when my friend who lives down the road about a hundred yards, lives down Mussey Grade about 100 yards called me and said that they were kicking us out of here, that the fire was coming up the canyon. I told him that he must be mistaken, that the fire was way over on the other side of Ramona and he said, ďno, itís here and itís coming up the canyon right now.Ē  So I went out on my back porch and I looked at the sky and my heart sank.  I looked at the sky and it was so red and it looked like it was ready to come over the ridge right at that moment, it was just incredible.  The wind was blowing quite strong at that time and it was very warm.  There seemed to be something more to it than just a normal Santa Ana wind and heat.  It seemed to me that the fire was just over the ridge and it suddenly came to me that we were going to loose our home.  I got the wife and kids up and we quickly began to pack things.  For every passing minute it seemed like things got worse, as far as the weather conditions were concerned.  We filled up my truck and two small cars with what we could and we had about an hour to get packed, I know a lot of people had way less than that.  During that time I did not hear one siren or one loud speaker warning us that we had to evacuate and at the time I wondered why because I had been through this a couple of times before.  Iím sure all of you remember the Barona Fire and a couple of other ones and we got woke up at 1:00 in the morning and told to get ready to go and at that timeÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  By who?

 

Gilbert:  By the sheriffs department and by the fire department.

 

Unknown Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Gilbert:  Yes, that was once before, yeah but this time there was nobody, I didnít hear anybody, I didnít see anybody.  Once we were packed up it seemed like there was a little time left to grab something or do something to protect our property but I knew that there would be a lot of fire rigs coming down Mussey Grade and I wanted to get out of the way, I didnít want to be blocking anybody, everybody knows Mussey Grade is one way in and one way out so I felt it was my responsibility to get out of the area so that they could do their job.  All the way up Mussey Grade I looked for fire engines going the other way and I saw none, I heard a sheriffs deputy on a PA system earlier, a few minutes earlier but I didnít see any other law enforcements, any other law enforcement vehicles while driving up Mussey Grade or south on Highway 67.  Highway 67 was blocked off at Poway Road and you could see that it was covered in smoke south of that location.  We drove down into Poway and then we, my wife and I became separated, we were in different vehicles, she drove up onto Scripps Poway Parkway and then followed that out to I-15.  I stayed on Poway Road and continued driving west out to 15.  My wife saw the fire racing across the wilderness area thatís south of Scripps Poway Parkway, she saw it racing across towards Scripps Ranch and she told me that it seemed to her that it was pacing her, that it was keeping track, it was keeping pace with her, thatís how fast it was moving.  When I got onto Highway 15 I started south and I saw thick smoke drifting across the highway but no fire, I thought that the smoke was from the Ramona Fire.  We got down to my mother in laws house in San Diego and I left my wife and kids there.  I then went to work at the northeastern division sub station up in Rancho Bernardo and Penasquitos and when I walked into the locker room a sergeant told me to hurry up and get dressed and get out there, that Scripps Ranch was starting to burn and I told him, you got to be crazy, the fire is up in Ramona and he said, ďno, itís here in Scripps Ranch.Ē  So I got dressed and I went out there and I worked the Scripps Ranch Fire for the rest of the day.  I conducted evacuations, I directed traffic, I maintained perimeter security and I even fought some fires with garden hoses.  I knew deep down inside that my house was gone but I kept hoping that some miracle might have occurred and my house was saved.  Late Monday night I secured from duty and was able to get back into the Mussey Grade area.  The further down Mussey Grade I drove, the more hopeless I felt.  I was heartbroken as to what happened to our beautiful valley.  When I turned onto Ronan Drive I immediately saw the worst, our house was gone as was our neighbors house across the street.  My other neighborsí house incredibly hardly had a scratch.  It was one of the worst things I ever had to do, tell my wife and daughters that their home was gone and all of the possessions were gone.  I know my story is not much different from anybody elseís here; there are a couple of points that Iíd like to make though.  Iím not looking for a pound of flesh from anybody, but I feel that the system failed us terribly for some reason and I want some answers, I want some accountability for what happened here only to establish one went wrong and to come up with ways to fix it.  I in no way blame any firefighter for what happened, I consider them all heroes and I thank them for the courageous fight that they put up for all of us.  I do feel that the upper management of the various fire and disaster services failed us.  They failed to plan adequately for a crisis like this and then they failed to respond fast enough.  I think many of their policies are ineffective and in some cases are down right stupid.  Deciding to wait for a fire that is too far away to burn down to the road where fire rigs are standing by makes no sense to me.  Wildfires burn in many directions at once and while the fire may be put out when it finally reaches the road, the other end of the fire is now farther away and ten times bigger.  The no night flight policy may be a good policy in general but there are always exceptions to rules and a few good router drops in the very beginning stood a very good chance of stopping this whole thing.  Somebody should have made a command decision to override that policy and let the drops occur.  Last of all I feel that when help is offered from outside sources such as the military, it should be accepted rather than be refused for some lame reason such as not having the proper training.  Pilots that are trained to provide close combat support in the face of hostile anti aircraft fire seem capable of dropping water on wildfires to me.  And I hope that people in the upper management positions of these various fire and disaster services can hear these criticisms and accept them in a positive manner in which they are offered.  And thatís pretty much all I have to say.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thank you.

 

Kit Kessinger:  Thank you.

 

Bob Krysak:  Hanna and Hank.

 


Hanna:  Iím going to start before the fire but Iíll give my name, my name is Hanna and this is my husband Hank.  We live at [Fernbrook].  A few months before the fire I got a letter from the Ramona Water District regarding weeds along my road, actually they said it was on my property, to take care of it and my husband had been out and weed whacked all of our property and weíre thinking whereís the weeds because we donít have, we have dirt everywhere, whereís the weeds?  So we get another letter, so I call and I say, ďokay, would you please come out and show me where I need to cut.Ē  So the fire district came outÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  Let me stop you right there.

 

Hanna:  Yes sir.

 

Bob Krysak:  Is the letter from the district or from fire protection services?

 

Hanna:  District. 

 

Bob Krysak:  For Ramona Water District there is a form letter first and then a follow up letter, itís important.  I think itís from the fire protection services, which is a company at the water district, has contact with.


Hanna:  Okay, I couldnít tell you because it burned up in the fire.  Got to laugh.  Okay so they came out and they said no, Hank you donít, they actually told me, I think you were gone, I said, if not you, itís the county responsibility and I said oh yeah right so they said that they would personally notify the county to come out and take care of it.  This is two to three months prior to the fire.

 

Hank:  What is was was all the brush along Fernbrook, Iíve been there twelve years and maybe twice theyíve come cleared the brush back which itís a county maintained road but itís the brush that scrapes your cars.  Iíve seen YYYY and he comes with his clippers and trims the road himself.

 

Hanna:  Heís not able to; heís 80 something years old.  Anyway thatís prior to the fire.  So we did what we were supposed to do, okay that morning, oh boy, we changed our clocks like everybody else early because I go to church but my cat Zechariah is a house cat and he decided it was time for me to get up because itís usually 3:15, well it was 2:15 and he kept meowing and meowing and I thought Zechariah, Iím not getting up go away and I sat up and we had our window open above our bed and I could smell smoke and we knew about Camp Pendleton a couple of days prior so I thought oh itís just Camp Pendleton, donít worry about it so I kept smelling it and smelling it and about 3:00 my sister called and said Carla had called her, there was a fire in Country Estates, just be prepared because weíve been through this drill before so we said okay.  And so we got up and made some coffee and just kind of set around for awhile and about 4:30, 5:00 we were outside, he went down to his cousins who lives the first house on Fernbrook on the left side, weíre the first house on the right side, weíre on the west side heís on the east side, okay so he went and got his cousin up and also he woke up a neighbor up in a trailer down the road letting him know that they be ready.  About 4:30 or 5:00 a CHP came down with his little speaker thing and flashing his light, spotlight, and he said, ďbe ready to evacuate,Ē that was his exact words and he went on his way.  So we had just built aÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  Did he do it over a loudspeaker?

 

Hanna:  Yes sir and we went up to the car and talked to him.

 

Hank:  It was over a PA system.

 

Hanna:  We had our gate already open, we were in the process of moving vehicles and so we said okay we are, weíre getting ready and so Hank pulled out two or three vehicles, we had a lot of vehicles, like fifteen, you know, we saved three thatís good.

 

Bob Krysak:  How many can you drive at one time?

 

Hank:  Thatís what happens when you donít have any children.

 

Hanna:  So anyway, we got the big Dodge truck in the yard and we got the, by then the outside cats were already gone, we had two outside so they were gone so we got cousin HHHH over and said letís just have coffee and weíll sit down on our back deck and watch the fire, so we did.  We sat on our back deck over looking the creek and were watching Kimball Valley, it was about 5:30, quarter to 6:00 we heard this big popping, propane tanks going off, then we heard this big roar and Iíve been through tornadoes so thatís what it sounded like to me was a tornado coming up.

 

Hank:  It sounded like a jet engine to me.

 

Hanna:  Big loud noise and the smoke came and the smell came and so we knew something was weird so I ran out front and we had everything packed that we thought we should take and the animals were ready to go and I ran to the front and as I looked, got to be south from my house, I could see flames coming this way, I could actually see them through the trees at that time.  My brother-in-law had just come down and went down to the lake and turned around and was high tailing it really fast and joined with wisdom and turned around in front of our house and said, ďletís go, letís go, letís go.Ē  By the time we turned off of Fernbrook and onto Mussey Grade, about 6:30 or so, weíre just estimating, there was a forty foot wall of flames on our right and it was coming up on the east side of the road.  Right, and by the time we got out, we had given his cousin, we got his cousins dog and we gave him keys to one of our vehicles and said, ďHHHH, get out,Ē no HHHH stayed another hour after we left, he got in the car and by the time he got to our z-car he couldnít go out the way we went, he had to go through the creek which is another issue, Iíll get to.


Bob Krysak:  What time was that?

 

Hanna:  That was probably about an hour after we left, we left around 6:30 so Iím saying about 7:30, thatís just a rough estimate.

 

Hank:  This is information coming from cousin HHHH, he went to Kitty and Iraís and then he tried walking back in to survey the situation and got about to IIIIís swimming pool where Dannyís Fishing Village used to be, looking for his house and my house and just saw a wall of flames, turned around and started running back and he had sandals on and he looses one of his sandals and as heís running back towards Kitty and Iraís the flames were catching up with him on the west side of Fernbrook.

 

Hanna:  So we got out and we went to the school and then cousin HHHH got to our church, we ended up at the school and it was so crowded that we went to our church for safety and letting the dogs and stuff loose and HHHH got there at 10:30 and thatís when we knew our house was already gone.

 

Bob Krysak:  How did you know that?  Because he told you, he had witnessed it?  What time did your house burn?

 

Hanna:  Well we left at 6:30, he left at 7:30 so when he walked back in, by that time it was already, we had a lot of stuff to burn though.

 

Hank:  As Fernbrook goes, weíre probably two of the first houses on Fernbrook.

 

Hanna:  That went.

 

Bob Krysak:  So the firestorm took your house, the initial first?

 

Hanna:  Oh yes, oh yes.  We lost everything we owned, sheds, trailers, fifteen vehicles, we lost one of our cats Bootsie, he didnít come home, 19 days later we did have one cat that did come home.  Asked how did we prepare, well a few years ago, weíve been through several of the few fires since weíve been there and we got a video from our insurance company several years ago so weíve been trying to like, whenever we do wood, we have a wood burner on the outside of our fence, we have the ice plant, even though we had a lot of stuff it was away from the houseÖ

 

Hank:  There was an issue of clearing the creek because from the corner of my house I could spit into the creek and as far as clearance, if you do too much to the creek then you get in trouble with Fish and Game.

 

Hanna:  So we canít do anything there as far as that clearing but we did everything we thought that we should do as far as protecting ours.  Itís said, could you have stayed?  Well we couldnít have stayed because it was coming too fast for us to do anything to protect anybody in our neighborhood, we didnít have that much of a warning.  Before we always had better warning to get out.

 

Hank:  Weíve always seen fire crews come down.

 

Hanna:  They used to station at Kitty and Iraís in fact, all their equipment, and fight the fires but this time we didnít have any.  The only thing I was told, and Iím really hurt, I know Iíve been lied to, one of the firemen was out, because we had a propane problem and I looked him right in the eye, this guy drives a truck for Ramona Fire Department, I need to find out how it is because it would be record of who the first truck was, and hereís what he told me personally, face to face, eye to eye, and I donít know the time frame because I havenít been to other meetings but Diane, youíll know, he said, he was the first fire truck on Mussey Grade and when he got to Salvation Army he could not go any further because fire was on both sides of the road, well I keep hearing these stories that the fire wasnít there so why did he look me in the eye, because I asked him tell me, did you guys come to Mussey Grade?  He looked me right in the eye and called me by my first name, he said, ďHanna, I was the first truck on the scene and I knew we couldnít go any further; it was a danger to my men.Ē  I said well I wouldnít want any menís lives lost through this but I also donít want to be storied to.

 

Bob Krysak:  Did he say what time he got there?

 

Hanna:  No.


Hank:  What Iím thinking is as it came up through it must have also, according to the gentleman who lost his beautiful house, that log house right, the fire must have came from two different directions.

 

Unknown Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Hank:  Right, so thatís probably that.  Thank you very much.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thank you.

 

Diane Conklin:  Iíd like to ask you a few questions.  (Inaudible).

 

Bob Krysak:  Possibly not.

 

Hanna:  Carlaís.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Hanna:  Yes, that was one thing that when we got to church that day the pastor said how do you want us to pray about this fire and I said well my sister just sold her house which thereís a trailer park between my sisters house and mine, the three houses in the middle of the road survived.

 

Hank:  The other side, Fernbrook was totally devastated; our side of Fernbrook and itís right in the middle of Fernbrook.

 

Hanna:  Three houses plus a trailer.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Hanna:  Yes and also Darcyís trailer, no Mike and policeman, Joanne and Darcyís trailer.

 

Hank:  And Harryís.

 

Hanna:  And then Harry on the other side of the road.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Hanna:  And Pierceís.  Five yes maíam.

 

Diane Conklin:  Thatís before (Inaudible).


Hanna:  Yes maíam.

 

Diane Conklin:  So weíre talking about fire coming up, so five houses very close to your house survived, (Inaudible), because you werenít there to observe it.

 

Hanna:  Just HHHH saying, when he looked back, came back through walking and he got to the pool he couldnít go any further, it was just like an inferno, the embers and everything.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Hank:  No.

 

Hanna:  No maíam.

 

Diane Conklin:  And then finally did you ever hear other people (Inaudible)Ö

 

Hank:  Yes.

 

Hanna:  Yes.  In the afternoon and that really threw me because I know that at Hankís at that meeting is where I found that out, at the meeting where Diane Jacob was there.  Right, thatís when I found out they were that late, I didnít realize that earlier though.

 

Hank:  One thing I saw last night, I kind of, it flashed in my head was that JJJJ stayed and fought the fire and that was kind of directly above those, Idaís house, KKKKís house and if he made some kind of headway there maybe it protected that little section from not burning, Joanneís house. 

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Hank:  Sure.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Hanna:  He was the first truck, he told me he was the first Ramona truck to respond.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Hanna:  A few weeks ago I had a neighbor that pulled a propane tank into the road and left it and it was smelling and I was concerned so I called Hazmat and they said thatís dangerous so they came out, the fire department, and heís the one that told me that day.

 

Diane Conklin: (Inaudible).

 

Hanna:  Probably Dye Road, thatís usually the one that responds to us.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Hanna:  I know what he looks like, a young man, he drove the truck, thatís all I could tell you, I didnít ask his name.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Hanna:  No I didnít, I didnít clarify the time, I just know he said he was the first truck on the scene.  He didnít say, he said he was the first truck.

 

Bob Krysak:  You had indicated that was between 4:30 and 5:00 AM, thatís when the chip came down, other than thatÖ

 

Hank:  Right at the last moment when all, when she saw the flames and everyone was, the street was backing up with horse trailers down Mussey Grade, right at the very last moment the second CHP came through and said, ďGet out, get out now.Ē 

 

Bob Krysak:  And thatís the only official presence you saw?

 

Hank:  Right.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thank you.  Isaac, and I canít read the last name because you scribbled it.

 


Isaac:  Iím the person youíre going to love to hate.

 

Bob Krysak:  I donít hate anybody.

 

Isaac:  Well, before I read my statement I just want to say one thing, the initial fire was the United States Forest Service fire, so if you want to blame anybody on any initial commands that were made it was the United States Forest Service that was making that.

 

Bob Krysak:  Isaac, can you, just for the tape, give your address and spell your last name?

 

Isaac:  Yes, my name is Isaac

[]

 

Isaac:  I know I write, and my address is [Dos Picos Park Road] 

 

Bob Krysak:  All right, thank you.

 

Isaac:  I would like to read my statement and then if anybody has questions Iíd be more than happy to answer it.  Just to let you know, clarify on tape, that initial fire was the U.S. Forest Service fire.  My name is Isaac.  I have lived with my family off of Dos Picos Park RoadÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  Letís listen people, give him the courtesy.  Thank you.

 

Isaac:  My name is Isaac.  I have lived with my family off of Dos Picos Park Road for the past eighteen years.  I am speaking before this review board as a resident that was affected by this fire.  No, my house did not burn.  I stayed as my family evacuated to do what I could for my home and my neighbors if the fire jumped Dos Picos or Mussey Grade Roads.  I did this with confidence since I am a retired fire fighter after serving the City of Poway for twenty-one years.  I also knew that my fellow fighter, fellow fire fighters would be facing conditions that you only see once in a career and response equipment to our area might be slim, if at all due to five major fires burning in Southern California prior to October 25, three major fires in San Diego County starting on October 25, 26 and numerous other fires throughout the state.  These fires were driven by weather and drought conditions, some of these were started by arsonists.  These were totally unpredictable firestorms that started and traveled in any direction they wanted to.  Departments were being pushed to their maximum level of operation. Many companies responded to the fires north of San Diego prior to October 25 under the state Mutual Aid System, call back up personnel by many agencies in San Diego County to staff extra equipment was put into effect.  You see due to things such as Prop 13, politicians not wanting to take responsibility for fire protection in this county and citizens, tax payers, not wanting to pay the money for adequate fire protection, the Mutual Aid System is a must because no one agency is able to handle major wild land fires by themselves.  For example, take Ramona, I pay $189.00 per year for fire protection, Iím sure most every other resident pays close to this, some more, some less.  Industry driven taxes is a minimum.  The Water Board contracts with CDF for our fire protection, thatís three stations with three engines, one rescue truck and two paramedic units.  Eleven fire fighters per shift, two on each engine, the recommended standard is four, one on the rescue and two on each medic unit.  According to the National Fire Protection Agency, one fire fighter per every 1000 citizens is recommended, that leaves Ramona at least fourteen extra fire fighters per shift short.  The aircraft, wild land engines, Mt. Woodson Station, hand crews and additional CDF resources are no charge to us due to board contracting with CDF, other cities have to pay CDF for this.  People say that CDF breeched their contract of fire protection during the Cedar Fire.  If you live within the Ramona Municipal Water District boundaries, you only pay for what is in those three stations.  These short-handed fire fighters performed their job in an extraordinary manner while fighting the Cedar Fire in Ramona.  Remember, all those other fires going on at the same time, remember that crews and equipment still have to remain at stations to handle other calls while these fires are going on, heart attacks, structure fires and during the Cedar Fire beginning, San Marcos had a multi-million dollar industrial building burn.  See how quickly the resources disappeared?  Our Ramona fire fighters are well trained and perform tasks that most departments do with full staffing.  They performed above and beyond the call of duty when the Cedar Fire entered Ramona with minimal help from other agencies, they attempted to reach all areas affected by the fires in Ramona, no fire related deaths in Ramona and countless homes saved.  I really feel bad for everybody that lost a home in Ramona but I can assure you that even if you had a fire engine parked at every home you still would have lost property and more.  I know that these fire fighters worked as hard as they could to save lives and property.  I know many of these brave men and women, my son was on Engine 82 which is out of Dye Road on call back for CDF when the fire hit Country Estates, he worked many sleepless hours that night and the following week covering their district and other areas of Ramona.  They saved many homes and lost homes too.  Talk to a twenty two year old fire fighter who started with Ramona as a sixteen year old who has been to more major fires than I did in twenty-one years and you would know that this was not easy.  They tried to save every home they could even in conditions beyond belief.  They did not have the resources to do more, they wanted to do more but couldnít and it pains him and every other fire fighter still.  I feel if anyone had breached a contract, itís the citizens for not saying to the board that we want more protection for us and our fire fighters and we are willing to pay for it.  I know people are upset but you have to remember that this fire was beyond anyoneís control.  Command tried to put resources in areas of greatest need, but too little resources and a fire moving in all directions driven by Santa Ana and fire created winds was too much.  Fires create their own wind that go above and beyond what the Santa Ana does.  We can continue to point blame and be angry or we can look for solutions, you look at that amount of acres burned, lives lost and home burned and you get angry. Think of the lives saved and the amount of homes saved also.  Demand the county form a department for all unincorporated areas that is well staffed, trained and equipped, demand the removal of dead trees and vegetation, take responsibility for your home and follow the state laws to make it fire safe.  Tell the board we want the contract with CDF to increase and we are willing to pay more, it is time to take responsibility to make things better.  Thank you.

 

Bob Krysak: Is that your only copy of your statement?

 

Isaac:  You can have it if you like.

 

Bob Krysak:  I canít write that fast, thank you.


Diane Conklin:  Iíd like to ask a couple of questions, first of all (inaudible).

 

Isaac:  You did, thank you.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  Fire engines attempted to get down Mussey Grade, I know individuals who did and because of the fire blowing across the road at the time they were being sent to there was just too unbearable for them.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Bob Krysak:  This isnít a courtroom Diane but you can ask questions.

 

Isaac:  No I couldnít tell you but I could tell you this, since Iím a retired fire fighter and my twenty two year old son is putting his life on the line I listen to a scanner and I can tell you that when this fire started, the initial dispatch was approximately twenty five engines, several hand crews, bull dozers and several overhead to try to get to this fire to put it out.  Astria was first on the scene by picking up the stranded hiker who started the fire with the flare gun, but that has never been established, thatís by the United States Forest Service, there are reasons why air craft is not allowed to fly after a certain time period, Iíve been on fire lines when an S2 air tanker was dropping beyond the dark hour and itís pretty scary.  Iíve been on fire lines with S2ís coming right across you or even a DC4, the big one, and as it pulls up out of the canyon doing its drop it pulls with it any structure thatís right there like chicken coops, storage sheds, everything, Iíve seen that happen.  Okay, itís not a very safe thing for them to do.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  Well Iíd rather not; Iíd like to just explain a few things real quick.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  No Iíd like to talk, thank you.  I just like to say, when AstriaÖ

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  What you needed to go do is go to Station 82 and talk to the fire fighters there or go to the Ramona CDF station at Mt. Woodson and talk to them there.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible). 

 

Isaac:  Correct.

 

Diane Conklin:  That is correct thenÖ(Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  No it isnít.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  You also have to remember that the five major fires burning, like I was going to say before, when Astria got on the news and said we could have put that fire out, they have a bambi bucket that probably carries a hundred gallons of water, you loose about twenty gallons in flight time, you try to drop onto a Santa Ana driven fire and youíre not getting a lot of water on the ground.

 

Unknown Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  There was wind up there, excuse me one second, if you listened to the radio, which I was doing okay, they were trying to gain access to that fire, okay, all the ground crews, Iím not sticking up for cause Iím a fire fighter, Iím telling you factuals that I heard on the radio, they can not gain access to that fire, thereís a captain out of Ramona that was even up in Julian and there was engines going one way and going the other way, they were trying to get to that fire.  That fire was probably about five acres, they expectedÖ

 

Unknown Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  About five acres.

 

Unknown Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  Thatís fine; they expected the winds to come up the next morning.  At 8:00 that night they put out a message on the CDF dispatch to all county agencies that expect that if the winds kick up sooner weíre going to be requesting mutual aid, fire apparatus to come to the San Diego Country Estates.

 

Diane Conklin:  What time was that?

 

Isaac:  That was about 8:00, and the reason they did that is because you have to remember you have five major fires burning plus numerous other ones burning in Northern California, they were cut thin, there was not a lot of equipment.  You have to remember the City of San Diego right now, to come up to standards, is a thousand fire fighters short.  They have maybe ten ladder trucks for the whole city of San Diego when they should probably have thirty, okay, thatís how short it is in California.  That fire when it started to crest the ridge line more and started to build and the winds came up they immediately sent a battalion chief from CDF into the County Estates, itís only first resource at that time was to telescort out of the Estate station, Telescourt 81.  My son was in the Estates, he was off duty and he called and said, ďyou know this thing is moving,Ē and I said, ďcall the dispatch center and see what they want you to do,Ē he was told to go to 82, at that time they werenít there, he went to the Estates, the first engine he got on was a Barona engine that came in, they were dispatching to San Diego County Estates two strike teams, one out of San Diego City and one out of Heartland which is El Cajon in those areas, thatís ten engines, thatís all they had.  The next two strike teams coming into there were coming from Orange County. They were trying to get the resources they had initially on the fire to start to move back down into the Ramona area so when my son got off of the Barona Engine and finally got hooked up with Engine 82, that gave them three people.  They were cutting holes in roofs, putting water into attic spaces, they were running to houses they knew they couldnít save trying to bring out whatever photos they could, anything they can grab just before the fire hit.  They were doing numerous backfires, they were going behind homes into the vegetation area and just lighting anything off they could.  This was now happening after 11:30, okay, he was there.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  Only during sun, only when the sun rises.

 

Diane Conklin:  Do you know listening to the scanner (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  From what I understand from reading on the internet from Captain Ron Serarbian who they interviewed and talked to, he said at that time they were sent home, prior to that.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  That was at their half an hour cut off point.  The planes are on the groundÖ

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  Well there was no one; theyíd have to call them back in to do anything.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  Because it was their cut off time.

 

Unknown Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  No, no, you have a lot of different opinions on when the fire started and when it did but it was before their cut off time.

 

Bob Krysak:  Weíve got enough time, talk at once, weíre not going to start shouting at each other, itís Isaacís turn.

 

Isaac:  Their cut off time is a half an hour before sunset.

 

Diane Conklin:  Sunset occurred at what time?

 

Isaac:  Iím not sure on that dayÖ(end of tape)

 

Isaac:  Öis to have copies of the dispatch tapes because the time is recorded every time they do something.  When Ramona dispatches they give time.  Every time somebody talks on the radio the dispatch tapes record a time so if Iím giving you estimates, I am just like anybody else here and you have to know in an emergency too people will say it took you twenty minutes to get there and we know it took five minutes to get there you know because Iíve sat and waited for emergency crews at my house, my mom had a stroke, it felt like it was an hour.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  There again, through the commissions.  They already put stuff in the paper a while back with all the breakdown of it, theyíre not going to falsify those because there is going to be a lot, itís just all recorded you canít not falsify that.

 

Kit Kessinger:  Early in this fire crews were sent up to Julian, twenty-five crews or so, and they werenít able to get to the fire.  They apparently, later in the fire they were still there in Julian, they werenít able to come down and assist in Ramona, at least thatís whatÖ

 

Isaac:  They were starting to move them down.  Hand crews, it takes a long time to move them from one place to another because most of the older hand crew vehicles do not have light and siren capability, you have a lot of crews that were moving around Julian, you know, to get to an area that, I know my sons two engines out of the Ramona, Mt. Woodson station were already dispatched to that fire, thatís why he didnít go on them, and they actually when, coming back when they were working in the Estates and then they were assigned to Wildcat Canyon when it blew through there.

 

Kit Kessinger:  Do you believe that they were concerned that the fire might move towards Julian instead of towards Ramona early on?

 

Isaac:  From what I understand, and I canít speak for them but I just feel that somebody has to talk because Iíve talked to my son a lot and he was here and I made him leave.

 

Kit Kessinger:  Youíre the best weíve got right now.

 

Isaac:  Heís very emotional of what happened.  He was actually, if you saw the pictures on NBC News when they took the burned fire captain and transferred him from one helicopter to another my son was ventilating him and it took a lot for him and heís still having a hard time over this whole thing and so are all the fire fighters, I can tell you that.  But no, I believe they knew where to put, what, from what I understand and from what I heard they did not expect the Santa Ana winds to hit until the morning.  When they hit at nighttime around 11:00, between 11:00 and midnight when they did hit, those were unexpected.  Thatís why stuff was moving as quick as they could to get to where it is.  Then you also have to remember, within an hour and a half that the fire was bumping the Country Estates the call went out for Valley Center, the only other chief on the scene in the Country Estates was then dispatched to that fire.  Once again state operation, not a lot of money in the budget, they have one chief that covers a lot of ground.  The first engine on the scene was calling for fifty acres, fast moving fire, we have homes threatened and we have homes burning, I need resources and they were told there were none.  Do what you have with your initial response from that area and weíll work on it.

 

Kit Kessinger:  Mike, I guess what the point is that Iím driving at is would they have, and again, whether itís opinion or whether you have inside knowledge, would they have known that Ramona and other areas to the west would have been the likely first populated area to be hit by this fire?

 

Isaac:  Well they did and they talked about that on the radio around 8:00, saying that if the winds do come up weíre going to have this hitting.  When it did hit the Estates also they were predicting that within two hours itís going to be in the Kimball Valley and Mussey Grade Road.

 

Audience:  No warningÖ(Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  What happened here, once again, that was their estimate by looking at the maps they had.  The fire hit Wildcat Canyon Road and turned and it turned and ran that way okay.  Once again, limited amount of resources, youíre going to go to where you have to go because thatís where the resources are at the time.

 

Audience:  (Many people speaking at once).

 

Isaac:  Any warnings are not done by the fire department; under the Incident Command System itís the sheriffs and CHP.

 

Kit Kessinger:  Thanks Mike, thanks a lot.

 

Isaac:  I had a CHP officer come up to my house and thought I was on duty so I donít know.

 

Audience:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  Oh definitely.

 

Audience:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  I understand.

 

Audience:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  You know CDF does have contracts with the military, only they operate with the National Guard, they run Huey Helicopters and they run C130 air tankers for and those were the ones that support CDF, as far as the Navy and that goes, thatís a government issue, I do not know why that was not utilizedÖ

 

Audience:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  Well and youíre also flying airplanes that are forty years old too, you got to take that into account too but I believe that if the crews were still there they probably would have flew one because they have flown after dark and the only time Iíve ever seen a helicopter fly to fight a fire was up in the L.A. area during the Williams Fire, I think it was a year or two ago and the only person that piloted that helicopter was a Chief Engineer of the helicopter squadron for L.A. City Fire Department, would not (inaudible) that flies.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  Iíll tell you the gentleman who stood up here in the gray suit, when he said about firefighters being afraid to be burned, my son was burned at the last set of fires that we had off of Old Julian Highway and you go to a burn center, he had a second degree burn on his nose which singed nasal hair and could cause inhalation burns but no, that gentleman really riled me. 

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  No and I know everybody else, I understand.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).


Isaac:  Sometimes, one time and thatís because he was already in the air and youíre talking summertime too so now youíre talking different hours.

 

Diane Conklin: So what youíre saying is cut off time is thirty minutes prior to (Inaudible)Ö

 

Isaac:  They might have sent one to do one drop but once you get in, what the winds are up in that area at the time and how much itís burning and what is burning, those planes, the minimum they go is 100 foot above deck, if they get any lower they will just annihilate everything on the ground, throw rocks at firefighters, knock firefighters down, destroy engines, so they have to stay 100 foot off the deck and when theyíre doing the drop, as youíve seen on the news and that, that stuff just, it doesnít do a lot, the retardant really does not extinguish fire, what it does, it slows the path of the fire and you will see water drops done by helicopters but their main purpose is to extinguish fire behind the main fire moving.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  No because what theyíll do, when the cut off time comes they send those pilots home to rest and tell them, well okay youíre going to be back at the airport at 7:00 in the morning, weíre flying at sunset and you got to understand they dropped over 200,000 gallons of retardant on this fire, starting at 8:00 Sunday morning.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Audience:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  But they probably sent the crews home early because there was no activity, if they keep the crews thereÖ

 

Audience:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  That fire was reported probably around 5:30.

 

Audience:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  Well thatís what the news said, thatís what the tape recordingÖ

 

Audience:  (Inaudible).

 

Isaac:  Well at that time they felt they could, the hand crews, the crews were, you donít know, but they could not get to the fire, thatís all I could tell you.

 

Audience:  (Inaudible).

 

Bob Krysak:  You know he canítÖ

 

Isaac:  Yeah, Iím not going to go on and on.  I thank you for my time, I appreciate it.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thank you.  Okay, Judy and John.

Judy:  John and Judy and we live at [MG Village], lot [] and we had our home down there about six and a half years and quite frankly we didnít know anything about the fire, we were home all night watching TV we were talking with our neighbors, we didnít know anything was serious or could have been happening.  Went to bed, had been watching TV, nobody came on and put a flash or alert or a scroll across the TV like warning, thereís possible, a fire might be getting out of control anywhere.

 

Bob Krysak:  What time did you end up going to bed?

 

Judy:  About 11:30 and by 2:30 my neighbor was pounding on our door, he had gotten a phone call from his brother-in-law who happens to be a CHP officer and he said to his brother-in-law you better get the kids and get out of there so he took the time, him and his wife, to come.  In MG Village we lost sixteen mobile homes, I was one of them, nine one bedroom bungalow cottages and we lost seven motor homes.  He came to the back half where we lost the biggest part where Iím at; we were one of the first to go in the park. I mean there was nothing, you couldnít even sift through rubble, it was so hot, everything was just gone and my place was gone by 9:00 that morning.  Nobody, not one fire truck, Iíve got pictures, I showed Kit last Saturday when I was here, the pictures of my home with a little spot of the fire behind my home and it got bigger and bigger and bigger as it came over the ridge, not one fire truck came back there, weíve got paved roads there in the village, there was no excuse for not getting back there at that point and stopping it from coming over the ridge.  We loaded up a few things in our vehicles and nobody came back and told us to evacuate, nothing.  And as Iím taking these pictures and itís getting bigger and bigger, Iím going, we better get out of here.

 

Audience:  (Inaudible).

 

Judy:  So thatís where Iím at in the far corner back there, like I said my neighbor was there about 2:00, weíre loading up our cars and all of the sudden a police car comes running through, speeding in the back of the park where weíre at, on a loudspeaker and says, ďMandatory five minute evacuation, mandatory five minutes evacuation,Ē over the loud speaker, he never stopped, he didnít talk to anybody and he was burning rubber.

 

Kit Kessinger:  Did you say sheriff or highway patrol.

 

Judy:  What was it?  I think it was a highway patrol, yeah, I think he had just left your place and he came up to our place but this guy was burning rubber and he wasnít answering nobodyís questions and.

 

Diane Conklin:  And what time was this?

 

Judy:  This is about 7:00ish, we finally got out of there about 7:00, 7:30 and we got in the long line on Mussey Grade with everybody going three miles an hour, some people holding their horses and walking them and it took, and I have to say, and Iíve mentioned this before, we all must have learned something in elementary school, donít panic, donít run because you should have seen everybody on Mussey Grade Road, everybody had things packed up and were in an orderly manner just like we were in grade school.

 

Bob Krysak:  So the road was pretty crowded at that point with people leaving?

 

Judy:  We were bumper to bumper.

 

Bob Krysak:  Were they using both lanes at that point to evacuate or just the one that wasÖ

 

Judy:  One going out and we never saw anything going in, except maybe some of the people that decided to go back and get more stuff.

 

John:  People were trying to get backÖ

 

Judy:  And we were on that road at least a good 35 minutes, 40 minutes till we got to the end and then the next thing I knew I heard itís burned, their gone and the trailer park was gone and then it wasnít until the next day that I found out mine was gone.  And my feeling is the same as everyone else, no warning, nothing and I think it would be a good idea, I know theyíre talking about spending all this money about doing reverse 911, you know, most of us, our first reaction was turn on the radio and turn on the TV, we donít all have scanners, maybe Iím going to have to invest and buy one because I am going back there, my home is going to be delivered there, however and Iíve been told I have to spend the $5,000 for mandatory sprinkler.

 

Unknown Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Judy:  The fire marshal told me, maybe you want to suggest to somebody next time, maybe warning us on the TV or radio, that one might be nice.

 

Bob Krysak:  Okay thank you, I have no more speaker slips but anybody is welcome to come and take the mic as long as you tell us who you are and what your address is, somebody step up to the plate.


Kathleen:  My name is Kathleen, [SDCE] at the edge of the national forest.  Ours is one of the first houses to go down and I spotted the fire because we were supposed to have a BBQ that evening and we were on the deck trying to hook up the BBQ and level it out so we could use it.  It was a column of smoke only.

 

Bob Krysak:  When did you first notice it?

 

Kathleen:  4:30.  I ran and got the phone for my husband and he called, 4:37.  I know that because I was in charge of cooking and the BBQ wasnít ready, so that is a fact.  Now another fact I have is that my son-in-law who lives in the Acres, saw the police chief, fire chief land and also one of the tankers, 3:30, it goes right over their house and everything rattles, we will testify to that, they landed and the fire was notified at 4:37.  There was nothing, no fire plane that went over there that could have dropped and itís my guess, maybe two drops retardant because the return on those, Iíve watched it, its very very short.  Why were they not notified to come back?  Why, because we had Santa Ana winds that were predicted and we stood in our driveway at 9:30, people said it came up at 12:30, no, we stood there right at the mouth of that canyon and felt fifty mile an hour wind and my husband decided to go and get the horse trailer from my daughters so we could evacuate if we needed to.

 

Bob Krysak:  What time was that, 9:30?

 

Kathleen:  He left at 9:30.  10:00 we noticed the wind at that speed at 9:30, we were standing out there and we said weíre in deep trouble here.  Okay, another question please, there was a CDF truck up there by the water tower that has been reported, they sat and watched the fire.  Why the heck didnít they start a backfire, weíre in that canyon, itís coming that way, there is fifty mile an hour winds, whatís wrong with a backfire?

 

Bob Krysak:  Now let me, at the time the CDF truck was up at the water tower, was that before the winds picked up?

 

Kathleen:  They were out there, yes, before and during when the winds started to pick up.

 

Bob Krysak:  How could you see them up there?

 

Kathleen:  They didnít leave to come down, we have a view, it needs to be checked, but they were there, they knew that the winds would come up.

 

Bob Krysak:  You saw them there while it was still there, while it was light, before the winds picked up?

 

Kathleen:  Yes.  Okay, our house was cleared, we had the brush taken back as far as CDF would allow, what is it 180 feet, and we had prepared for everything, we had sprinklers all over decks, everything.  When that fire came through, it was a fire storm, the only way to beat it is to be proactive and the proactive business start a backfire out there, far enough away from the homes to that the damn thing stops.  Nobody did anything, I was there alone while he went and got the horse trailer, there was nobody coming up that was a police officer, California Highway Patrol, no fire trucks, nothing.  We raced through there, I raced through that house, got out two horses, one dog and paperwork and everything burned to the ground.  Why?  Backfire, 3:30 landing on the bombers, with retardant, they were sitting on the airspace with retardant in and fuel and the fire was reported at 4:37.  I will testify to that because itís the truth.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thank you.


Leon:  Not you.  My name is Leon, I lived at [Mussey Grade Road], I was a renter and my personal story is that I knew that there were Santa Ana winds coming and for that reason I slept out on a cot outside to feel air and was quite surprised that at 3:00 AM on Sunday that my neighbor Edgar called me and warned me of the danger and that some people were evacuating.  It was still a little fuzzy in my mind because it didnít seem like there was a fire anywhere, it was too dark to notice that, however, I couldnít sleep after that and I realized yes indeed there was a fire, that that wasnít fog rolling over the hill and so being awakened at 3:00 AM I probably was able to, well at first tried to gather my animals, I spent about an hour at that, I spent about an hour getting an 80 ft. inch and a half fire hose ready for the fire fighters to use to put out my building and wetting down things ahead of time.  Incidentally I lived in that location for seventeen years, if I still lived there it would be going on seventeen years and I have been evacuated three other times for the Iron Mountain Fire, for a fire that was on our own Foster Truck Trail on the 4th of July one time in which that one five acre, ten acre fire had fourteen engines, three water helicopters, a bomber and several hand crews and the Kimball Valley Fire so this was the fourth time I had been evacuated from a fire so I felt a little bit over confident that somebody would come like a lot of other people Iíve heard.  Then at dawn I realized it was getting very close and then smoke was almost straight overhead and coming towards us, I could feel the heat, probably between 6:30 and 7:00 AM I left.  Seems to me about a half hour or so before Elsa, Edgar and his son left their place just on the hill to my east so my point is that when I first moved out there I was informed that we had had a volunteer fire department called the Buzzard Gulch Volunteer Fire Department down on Mussey Grade Road and there were a number of my neighbors who were members of it who were familiarized and trained in fighting fires, we had an engine Iím informed of, we had people who were trained in medical emergencies and that Iím also told at some point when I assume the Ramona Municipal Water District took jurisdiction over that area, the Buzzard Gulch Volunteer Fire Department was told to disband and one of the people on Mussey Grade Road that I hope has testified, is another ex-firefighter, Pete.  He always told all of us and I remember his words very well, ďAssume theyíll never come, thatís your best fire protection,Ē not to dump on firefighters but there may be a situation in which they canít come and I didnít listen enough to that advice.  So I guess my point is if it can be at all unique in all of the consistent testimony where it was that nobody came to warn, I didnít hear these sirens or these sheriffs helicopters down in MG Village, we lived just over the hill, we hear it, sirens when theyíre coming up and down Mussey Grade Road but I certainly didnít and so the failure of warning is what I think is the most grievous harm that I feel because I have learned tonight from[], I think itís [] Isaac, theyíre stretched thin, theyíre very professional, theyíre very well trained, very understaffed, very under funded, arenít we all but it wouldnít have taken a huge difficulty to have been better warned and Iím one of these people that coined this term reverse 911, I never heard it before in my life but I brought it up at the Ramona Planning Group Meeting.  Iíve read a lot about it since then but I know before there were phones, people would have gotten on their horses and they would have ridden up and down to warn their neighbors, the Red Coats are coming, weíd have said that, Iíd have said that, I warned two of my neighbors, I warned Renee and Reggie and I warned my neighbor MMMM, none of whom had any clue about it.  We donít get television down there, it doesnít get into that valley and you can listen to the radio for a half hour before their break into some kind of thing about the weather and they talk about what the temperature of the ocean is but I think failure of warning I guess we all bare a little bit of responsibility for because it isnít a theory, the direction in which Santa Ana fires burn and it isnít a theory who is in that direction and it isnít impossible with all of our technological accomplishments, weíre talking about going to Mars for heavens sakes that we canít warn each other and if Buzzard Gulch Volunteer Fire Department wasnít disenfranchised of their responsibilities weíd have at least warned each other.  My phone worked and thatís all I have to say.  Thank you.


Joseph Mitchell:  Good evening, Iím Joseph Mitchell, 19412 Kimball Valley Road and Iíve spoken before.  Tonight Iím really here to give Cedar Fire timeline as we saw it.  On the first day of the fire which is Saturday, October 25th, in the early afternoon I did the first full tests of our fire protection system, we just had our back up generator installed on Friday and I turned the thing on to make sure it worked.  It consists of thirty-two outwardly erected nozzles mounted into our boxed in eves and I chose that particular configuration to actually provide ember, fire brand dousing capability in high wind conditions because I knew from talking to Pete  that thatís when those homes were lost.  Due to our site location, which is on a ridge, that makes it a very dangerous place and it also gave us a very good view of what happened of the fire between 6:30 PM on the 26th and the time we evacuated at around 4:15 AM on the 27th.  My wife Diane Conklin noticed the fire some time between 6:15 and 6:30 PM as she drove back from San Diego; she also noted that there were no bombers flying.  She kept an eye on it throughout the evening, went out to water the yard, did not seem to grow very much before, from at least our standpoint, until around 11:00 PM but then at about 11:00 PM we have a wind sock on our porch and the wind where we live kicked up at that point and began to blow from the northeast.  At midnight Diane called 911 and she was informed that San Diego Country Estates was being evacuated and since they were directly northeast of us that we knew that that was pretty bad news and we decided to go out and have a look for ourselves to see what the danger was.  We made it as far as the Wildcat Canyon intersection, Wildcat Canyon had been blocked at that point and we turned around and hurried back.  When we got back to Kimball Valley it was probably around 1:30 AM.  At this point the valley had been filled with black smoke and we couldnít see the fire.  I began packing, Diane began phoning friends and neighbors, she also called Barona Casino and they were still at that point deciding whether they were going to evacuate or not.  At about 2:00 AM the wind shifted slightly to the south and that cleared the smoke for us and then we could see the full fire front.  Now, sometime between, I canít remember exactly when it was, but it was sometime between 2:30 and 3:30 AM we saw, or I saw, one or more vehicles equipped with spotlights, I assumed they were some sort of police, sheriffs deputies or state highway, I do not know, on Kimball Valley Road.  They crept down but I donít think they went any further than the SDG&E road, in any case they were only there about ten or fifteen minutes, turned around and got out of there.  The fire moved very quickly from the north to the south, following the ridge and canyon lines as well as the wind.  We tried to call a friend in Muth Valley but it turns out they were out of the country at the time.  Now Barona is right across Kimball Valley from us.  Itís hidden behind a mountain and I knew that if the fire bridged Kimball Valley, Iím sorry Wildcat Canyon Road and the casino then there was no way that it was going to avoid us, it would come through, so I watched very carefully as the fire line descended into the valley behind the casino and then when it appeared on the near side, thatís when I knew the fire was going to come through.  Now we then watched it enter Kimball Valley as it was pouring over the mountain it streamed in through Longís Gulch, it moved downward into the valley by spot fires, it appeared about two hundred to three hundred feet in advance of the front.

 

Kit Kessinger:  Do you know what time that was?

 

Joseph Mitchell:  Uh, this would be, well we evacuated about 4:15 AM, plus or minus ten minutes and at that time I estimate the fire was one third of the way down into Kimball Valley.  It could have, one thing we did note is that it extended very far by that time, it may have made it, it was at Muth Valley and it appeared, it may have already reached San Vicente Road at that time.  We went to the Edgarís who live across from us and we were trying to convince them to evacuate.  Looking at this fire, despite the fact that we had turned on our sprinkler system as we left, the power was still running, we had the backup generator, it hadnít kicked in yet, we just looking at the thing it was just so monstrous we figured well it was all a very good try but you know, bye house, it was nice knowing you.  We had closed all of our doors and windows, closed an attic vent, a door over an attic vent, picked up all flammable materials and got them away from the house, either putting them into the garage or further away.  We got into our cars and left.  We asked the Edgars', we tried to convince them to meet us downtown, then we went downtown, waited down there for about forty-five minutes and then about 6:25 I tried to call our house from the Dennyís, thinking well if itís still standing maybe Iíll be able to get through.  I could not; I got a fast busy meaning that either the power had gone out by that time or the phone lines had burnt.  We assumed our home was lost by that point.  Shortly thereafter, maybe between 7:00 AM and 7:30 we went to Collier Park and I was walking the dog when I saw the first CDF bomber, it was one of their small ones and it was not flying toward Mussey Grade, it looked like it was heading toward the east, toward the SDC&E area I assumed.  We went back to Mussey Grade Road just to see what we could find out and we went, we made it as far as Dos Picas Park where there was a road block which was manned by a woman from the County Department of Parks and Recreation, she was quite upset, she was saying, ďwhere is CDF?  There are people dying.Ē  She was almost in tears, well she was in tears.  We had heard from here that Fernbrook was burned, we went to a house of a friend who lives above the airport and we got to watch the air attack as it was conducted and the fellow who lived there pointed out that they seemed to be flying two bombers out of the air attack base, two of the small ones, I donít know the technical names for them, thereís the big ones and thereísí the small ones, these were the small ones.

 

Bob Krysak:  (Inaudible).

 

Joseph Mitchell:  At this time the Paradise Fire had started behind us and looking around we were surrounded almost on three sides by the fire and looking at the resources that were being committed to this fire, which were, as far as I could see, negligible, and the size of it, I saw that this was beyond the steal of anything that anybody had ever seen and rather than get chased from place to place by the fires, Diane and I decided that it was good to be where there is not fuel so we went to Borrego Springs and we left Ramona about no one, between noon and 1:00 PM.  Now we connected with other evacuees at the hotel where we were staying and it turns out that one had an employee that lived on Mussey Grade and so he went up on Monday the 27th, later in the afternoon, and we heard for the first time because the cell phone connections were very spotty, that land lines were out completely.  Late on the afternoon of the 27th we heard our house was still standing, it was amazing, and we also learned, we were very happy to hear that at least some of Fernbrook had been saved, the cafť was still standing and we knew that there was at least something there to start rebuilding from.  At no point during the timeline of the fire did we see any fire trucks or any fire personnel on the Mussey Grade Area.  Our home, we saved by, aside from luck, adequate clearing, at least 100 feet to protect from the direct radiant of heat, we sealed our eves and we put in the sprayer system.  Iím going to publish details of the system shortly on a website and Iíll provide that information to you once that website becomes active. Thank you.


Diane Conklin:  Diane Conklin, 19412 Kimball Valley Road.  I think Iíve, I have recovered from my coughing fit so Iíd like to speak to you for a few minutes, not as the representative of the Mussey Grade Road Alliance but as a person.  If I am a politician itís because circumstances in my neighborhood have caused me to come again and again to different boards and different committees and stand up for our rights in our area and itís not because I chose to do this when I first came here.  That doesnít mean that Iím a victim of my circumstances but I did not choose to come here to be a politician so I just want to make that clear.  Some of the people donít.  I would just like to say that Iím going to add an emotional component to what Joe has said because I think itís important to have the background, psychological, mental, physical background to this fire, as far as my own experience of it.  I would like to say that I was scared to death by living in chaparral, having been to water board meetings and meetings with the CDF at the highest level in San Diego County, Chief Ken Miller now retired and replaced by Chief Chuck Maynard, regarding the Salvation Army Project and that Salvation Army Project is attempting to put 800 people on a road, a one way box canyon and I felt that if they put the people in the Mussey Grade area on that road that we would have a cork in the bottle and we would not be able to get out and that was a real concern.  Now Olivia who was here earlier and who was here last time had told us that she would always open the gate and we could come down to the reservoir but I know people who tried to do that and I know of people who know people who tried to do that in Muth Valley and died because going down to the reservoir was just the last place you wanted to go.  So I do want you to know that I feel particularly bad about what happened to us because we knew, we really knew what our conditions were.  We knew that our conditions were not great but we knew they were even worse because we felt that the fire marshal and the CDF locally were wiling our risk our safety by promoting through allowing a one way in, one way out road, 800 person, think about it, itís a major hotel and that means that the egress, ingress would be on Mussey Grade alone and to the state it is still on Mussey Grade alone.  There is not secondary access being required by Steve Delgadio, the Fire Marshal and we think thatís unconscionable.  So I have to tell you the reason that I bring that up is not because thatís a favorite refrain of some song I know but because I knew at that point when I learned that they were wiling to do that, that that decision was made by the fire marshal in this town, that we were in trouble in case we had a fire, and I felt at risk so I said to my husband, we must, absolutely prepare for a major fire.  What happened was is that after we had gone to the water board and we met with Chief Miller, just around the same time, the Fallbrook Fire occurred and we went, Edgar and Elsa taped the Fallbrook Fire, they have a TIVO system and I watched the report of that Fallbrook Fire over and over again and I watched what happened there were trees next to the houses that burned but the houses themselves, I mean there were trees next to houses that burned but the trees themselves were not burning, they were positioned on a cliff overlooking a valley, they were on a chimney and the fire just traversed those houses, one after another, after another.  So I went down to Fallbrook and I looked at the conditions to see how they matched up against our own conditions and they were very similar, we are also on a chimney so then I realized that in fact, it was important for us to do something, by the way, at a Ramona Community Planning Group meeting, when we were fighting the Salvation Army issue with regard to safety, I was told by Steve Butler who is the air attack base commander for CDF, that we should, and he told all of us at that meeting, we should just clear around our houses, stay there and they would come down and help us.  I went up to him after that meeting and I said, ďSteve,Ē or at a break and I said, ďSteve please donít tell that to people because they may believe you and they may just stay in their homes and they shouldnít stay in their homes,Ē and I remember at that point he said to me, ďWell how much have you cleared around your house,Ē is this a CDF refrain, and I said, ďWeíve cleared quite a bit,Ē and thatís when Patrick Cureal also a fire fighter from the City of San Diego, a point there, and a Ramona Planning Group member said, ďbut sheís on a chimney,Ē and thatís the time I really understood how dangerous we were because I didnít know what that meant, Iím from the east coast.  So we decided to do something about it and we spent around $15,000 doing it, when you put it into your house when you first build it, it would cost you a lot less plus if you can do some of the work yourself it would cost a lot less, but the bottom line is that we produced a system because we had no faith that the CDF would come down.  Now thereís another point, or maybe that we might have believed that they would come down but we didnít know that they would be competent to do something about it.  Thereís another point, before I went to see Chief Miller and try to get an appointment with him to talk about the Salvation Army, I saw a couple of trucks at the end of our driveway on Kimball Valley Road, a couple of fire trucks, and this is about two years ago and I went up to them and I said, ďWhat are you doing,Ē and one of them said, ďWell weíre showing the rookies whatís out here,Ē and thatís Kimball Valley because they knew the danger there and they knew it was a one way in, one way out box canyon.  But the other point is this, that the prevention, the measures we took, other than the fact that we had total faith in CDF, both I would tell you not only is the CDF employed by the water district because we donít think that they have sufficient means, but Iím also talking most importantly about the CDF at large because I just had a feeling that they wouldnít help us and Iím afraid that thatís a feeling thatís been born out but the thing that I really want to say is that people have said to people along Mussey Grade in newspaper articles and in other ways, and Steve Delgadio said this himself, you ought to know where you live and I know that youíve heard me say this before, you ought to know the conditions.  We did know the conditions but the major point is that you have more houses lost in Scripps Ranch, is anybody going to them and saying, well you ought to know where you live, because in Scripps Ranch what you have is the fuel, the fuel is the house, the houses are right next to each other, next to a land urban interface has been created through building in chaparral and when a fire storm of this measure comes through then of course theyíre going to be in danger so I really donít think itís fair to say, well because we have trees and because we have shrubs and chaparral, slope, mountains, that weíre really in trouble and we should assume that thatís true.  I really think that the Scripps Ranch people and people in large developments where the houses are right next to each other are really in trouble and Iíd like to say that itís important for planning, planning and land use as well as for fire protection, that we donít keep dragging these developments out into the wild land interface, making more people at risk and I think weíre doing that in our planning so it isnít just the fire problem with CDF or local fire protection, itís also a planning problem and also this business about putting sprinklers inside your houseÖ(end of tape).

 


Mack:  Ödrove back up Mussey Grade Road to Leonís driveway, the street light there and then turned around and then you could really see the extent of the smoke at that point, coming back down, coming up, if I was coming down, coming up Ronan Road was a single car, a white car, I donít recall if it was a pick up or a car, he was driving very slowly and right in front and I pulled off of Mussey Grade and right in front of Kitty and Iraís we stopped and I opened the door and I said, ďdo you know what is going on,Ē and this woman said, ďyes, Iím with the Ramona Water Board and I was there this evening and I was sent home at about 2:30 to collect my belongings,Ē and she was on her way and she had the car full of animals and stuff, it was about 3:30, car stuffed full of stuff and she was on her way back up out of Mussey Grade and I had asked her what was going on and she said, ďwell weíve lost five or six house over in Country Estates,Ē but thatís all the information that she had so she went away and I went back down to my home and said it was a significant fire and itís somewhere but they donít know where so we spent a while further trying to get information and we began to try and telephone people, we called the sheriff but they put you on hold and when youíre beginning to get antsy no one wants to wait fifteen minutes you have to on hold, you know youíre like darn it weíll try something else so we tried phoning television stations, radio stations and everything else we could think ofÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  When did you start making these calls?

 

Mack:  Between 3:45 and 4:00.  When we sort of gave up on that we climbed up the hill towards the house, actually right overlooking Kimball Valley, itís a pretty serious climb and we got up there I would guess just about 4:00 AM, we left at 4:00 AM and from where we were we could see the entire ridge on the far side of Kimball Valley burning and the wind was blowing fairly strongly out there but it was blowing right down the ridge, there was no wind towards us, it was all blowing the fire right down at the lake and we thought okay, well I thought anyway, this is an eerie frightening sight you could see but itís going away from me, laterally from me and this is a concern but we have a long time for it to burn all the way down Kimball Valley, across Kimball Valley, up Kimball Valley and then back down the hill to where we are.  So we went back to the house and finally got through to the sheriff at probably closer to you know 4:30 and their answer was they did not know the scope or direction of the fire and that we should not wait for any kind of official notification to evacuate, that in fact, if we felt threatened or saw any flame just get the hell out and thatís a quote.  So we said okay well weíre not going to get anything from outside, theyíre obviously not, they donít know where we are and they really arenít coming to look so as it began to get light, about 5:15 we could see, very faint but we could see the fire over Kimball Valley and the orange glow coming off the bottom and we kept thinking well itís going to crest the hill and burn down on top of us but it just kept glowing orange so we began to pack everything up, pictures and securing animals and getting ready to leave and while my wife was doing that I began to water the roof and the area to the north of the house because I was expecting the fire to come up Kimball Valley and down from the north to the house and I figured well weíll try to prevent the north side because I canít water everything, not enough time so I spent the better part of 45 minutes to an hour watering the roof and the area around the house.  At about 6:00, a few minutes before 6:00 I phoned the landlord and said, ďlook thereís bad news here, things are on fire and weíve got the animals and weíll be leaving shortly, is there anything you want me to bring, absolutely need out of this place because itís not going to be standing,Ē and they were kind of groggy, they said let me think about it and so I called them back and took one last race up the hill to look back down on Kimball Valley and at that hour it was about half way down the far side of Kimball Valley and I thought okay itís moving slowly this direction but we still got some time.  I returned to the house and continued watering and I phoned the landlord back and said, ďdonít bother coming because itís coming fast enough youíre not going to get here,Ē so as we stood there looking to the east at about 6:15 my wife grabbed me and said you know thereís a problem and I said what and she said the fireís over here, itís behind us and itís very close because at this point it had skirted right through the lake and was coming up Mussey Grade so we immediately jumped in the cars and as we were loading in the car the police went screaming by down Mussey Grade and you could just barely hear them actually.  Because we were outside and heard them and he was just yelling, ďget out, get out, get out,Ē as he went by about fifty miles and hour and I thought well you know if I hadnít been awake and outdoors it would have done no good and I could tell he was really afraid, it was the first time I really heard fear in a policemanís voice and he was scared, and he was gone so we went out to in front of Kitty and Iraís place at about 6:15 or 6:20 there was a lot of people out there, a whole bunch of people out there so we got out and started talking, you know, anyone know whatís going on, where is it, whatís burning, are we going to be in trouble and as we stood there probably five minutes later two young kids in a pick up came screaming up, you know these kids, yeah, they came screaming up and slammed on their brakes, desperate and theyíre like, ďitís at Fernbrook Road, itís right behind us, we can see the flames, itís right there, get out,Ē and they took off and we were like if theyíre that scared, you know, weíre going.

 

Audience:  (Inaudible).

 

Mack:  They did a good job because immediately everyone said oh weíre gone.

 

Audience:  (Inaudible).

 

Mack:  So we jumped in and left and the only other comment I have about it is the first official vehicles that I encountered where when I was down at the 15 on Scripps Poway Parkway and this had to be 5:47 AM, I saw three ancient fire trucks lumbering the best they could, they looked like they were 50 years old, lumbering up Scripps Poway Parkway and I said well thereís the response but of course by that point youíre well aware that anything in our area was probably gone but that was the first response that we saw, beyond that I didnít see anybody coming.  Thank you.


Ned:  My name is Ned and I am the property owner at [Fernbrook] that Mack was just describing, he was at the location, I was not at the property at the time when our home (inaudible).  I personally lost my house but it seems like nothing compared to what so many other people have lost.  My heart goes out to all of the things and people and after all that happened through this whole thing and it seems like such a tragedy.  Iím a solutions oriented person, I donít like to throw rocks, I donít think that rocks are really merited here, it feels as though what happened, to me it was a miracle that no one died and we live in a very tender spot out in the back country and what we encountered on that day was a storm, they have ice storms in the Midwest and people donít call and ask for assistance, they hunker down, they live with the storm, they know itís going to happen, itís been happening for a long time, these fires happen every once in a while and you have to be ready, you have to be prepared and thatís why Iím here, to talk about trying to be prepared.  I personally will rebuild and will do it in a way that is as fire resistant as possible, thereís no such thing as fire proof but there are ways of making structures much more fire resistant than the wood sided home and barn that burned down where I lived and SSSS lived and there are a lot of things that could be done to improve that situation but I feel that there are a lot of other things on a systemic level that could improve the situation also that I donít know if those have been addressed in the other meetings but I just got this idea and it just seems like a really low cost solution that really needs to be looked into and determined in whether or not this is feasible.  I think that the Ramona Municipal Water District has some level of responsibility to help in fires, I donít know exactly what that is but because they have water and it does seem to make a lot of sense and from the last testimony from Mack he mentioned that someone associated with the Ramona Municipal Water District at 2:00 was leaving their residence with all of their stuff in their car, they knew that a big fire was coming and they were leaving and thatís evident I think from a lot of peopleís experience, people knew that it was coming but there are some people that didnít know until much later and thatís where I want to try to improve the situation.  Just to shift for a minute, has anybody got that telephone call at 7:30 at night while youíre eating dinner asking you if you wanted to refinance your home the fourteenth time this month, Iím sure we all have, right, I mean that technology has been around for so long and fortunately thereís the Do Not Call List thatís going to make it so that we donít all have to have that right.  Well the best part about that is that thereís going to be a whole bunch of this telemarketing electronic calling systems and the machines that do that are going to be obsolete, thereís going to be a surplus of them so it seems to me that if we could some how or another get a hold of one of these things that thereís a lot of, itís probably not going to cost a lot and if we were going to take a database of phone numbers of say maybe metropolitan water district customers, thatís it, and have those people be called, I wouldnít mind if you guys called me once a month and told me that my name was still on the list and that Iíd be called at 3:00 in the morning or 2:00 in the morning or 1:00 in the morning when there was a fire and if you wanted to do that once a month or once a year to let me know that my number is on this list, Iíd say, ďgreat, thank you very much,Ē at least youíre not asking me to refinance my home, and Iíd hang up and Iíd feel a little bit safer and I might even bring the phone so I could hear it at night ringing and after the third time that it rang because I think you can set them up so if no one answers or you get an answering machine you can call back, you can do that three or four times until you get someone that picks up and when they pick up they hear, thereís a fire in your area, and you can regionally set it so, hey the fires on the east side of Ramona, just bother those people, donít bother everybody in the district.  It seems as though there could be a method to get the word out much more effectively that doesnít cost a lot of money, it doesnít have a huge amount of infrastructure requirements and it doesnít make us buy all these other fire, you know, oriented things that you know I probably think we need more than we have but the level is up to a lot of more bigger ideas than what I have but it just seems to me that it wouldnít cost that much and could really save lives in the long run so please, please, think about trying to do things differently, think out of the box and take solutions of whatís available and get them to the people because thereís a lot more uses to things out there than what other people have figured out what to do with them.  Thank you.

 


Patty:  Hi, my name is Patty, I live at [SDCE], right off Ramona Oaks and mine is kind of a timeline.  At 5:30 I got a phone call from the neighbor during one of our parties and she said, ďDo you know thereís a fire at the end of Ramona Oaks,Ē well it is the crazy neighbor that always calls saying thereís a fire at the end of Ramona Oaks so we didnít think it was anything serious, sheís always saying that so we kind of blew it off and went about our party and as it started to get dark weíre all in the backyard and weíre looking around the corner and we back up to Mt. Gower and we kind of looked around the corner of our fence and went, ah, thereís an orange glow out there and I looked at my husband and a couple of his friends and I said, ďIím kind of worried,Ē I always worry about fires and he said, ďDo you know how far away that fire is, thereís no way firefighters would let it get that far, it would take hours if not days to get here and they would never let it go through that many homes,Ē so I said okay fine.  So the party ended, everybody left and my mom was there and I said, ďCome on mom, letís get in the car and drive down to the end of Ramona Oaks,Ē so we drove down there at 9:30, got all the way down to the end of the cul-de-sac and looked out and went, yeah thereís a fire but itís way out there, there was no sheriffs cars, no fire engines, nobody out there but just neighborhood people.

 

Bob Krysak:  What time was that?

 

Patty:  9:30 and so we went home and we were really tired from having the party so we went to bed.  11:30 at night another neighbor knocks on the door and says, ďDo you know thereís a fire at the end of the road,Ē weíre like yeah, yeah, yeah thereís a fire at the end of the road, leave us alone, weíre going back to bed so we just completely ignored her and we were kind of irritated that she was waking us up, we knew there was a fire out there.  2:00 we hear boom, boom, boom, ďWeíre leaving and we think you need to leave too,Ē and I looked over my husbands shoulder and the ridge across the street was burning like crazy, it was up in Barona Mesa and he turns around to me and goes, ďWe got to go,Ē and Iím all, you think, there was no sirens, there was no noise it was just windy and I just remember grabbing my kids, grabbing my animals, putting everything in the car and as weíre backing down the driveway, this is maybe 2:10, we hear a sheriffs car, ďMandatory evacuation,Ē why did it take that long for somebody to say something?  I heard helicopters but they werenít saying anything so to say that they couldnít fly at night, there were helicopters flying, I donít know what kind.

 

Bob Krysak:  What time?

 

Patty:  2:10.  So we go to the Village Store and we were there until about 2:40 and by this time my mom is looking at me going, ďI really donít want to go,Ē and I said, ďThereís no way weíre going back,Ē our house is probably gone by now the way that it looked so we left and we went down Wildcat Canyon at 2:45 and there were cars, sheriffs cars and squad cars coming up Wildcat but no sirens on, no lights, no sirens, it was pitch dark, we got past Barona, went down, got down to El Cajon and we walked into El Cajon at my mother-in-laws house at 3:15 and itís just amazing that there was no warning but yet Iíll talk to some of my friends who were evacuated a block up [] at 12:30, why they didnít come a little bit further is beyond me, I donít know.  So it was just pick and choose, they chose where they wanted to go, who they wanted to evacuate and left the rest of us up to our own whatever, survival.  I remember on Sunday morning watching the news I saw a picture of fire trucks on Mussey Grade, because I was worried about the Edgarís because I work for Edgar, and I saw a picture of them sitting there on Mussey Grade right before Dos Picos Park, you know, with the lights flashing and theyíre saying, oh weíre trying to save Mussey Grade, well I thought they meant this side of the park, not that side so I had no idea that was on fire because now Scripps Ranch is on fire and who cares about Ramona.  It was just amazing.  So on Tuesday we got back, our neighbors are gone so if we wouldnít have gotten woken up by the pesky neighbors at 2:00 again we could have been dead.  The fire department was in our home because our attic was on fire but they put it out.  So I donít know why we didnít get any warning, I donít know why at 9:30 when you could see the fire out there, why there was not even anybody at the cul-de-sac at Ramona Oaks.  Why didnít they even have the fire department or CDF or somebody sitting out there going, okay it is going to come this way, most likely, letís just take a stand here and put a stop to it and then by 2:30 it was already behind our house and our neighbor, the one who was pestering us stayed not 15 minutes after we left he said it took four minutes for it to go from this end of the mountain, Mt. Gower, to the other, thatís all it took and it was just out of control.  Anyway, thank you.


Renee:  My name is Renee and I live at [Mussey Grade].  Fire brings me here, I donít like to speak but here I am.  It was so so sad, 4:30 or something like that, Leon calls and said, phone rings and Iím going, I donít want to answer that, forget it, itís too early answer the phone and itís fire and Iím still saying oh itís far away, we donít need to worry and then were going oh Reggie lets get up, we got to go and we got up and maybe we are up early, maybe weíll go hike a mountain, as soon as we go out, mountain hiking was aside, we drove down to the end of the road, went and saw Olivia at the end of the road, she was just evacuating and I said, ďOlivia we got to get more things out of your house,Ē no, no, no, her son is saying, ďno lets get out, lets get out,Ē so we stayed at the end of the top of Mussey Grade Road watching the fire and it really looked like itís not coming down Mussey Grade so we just drove up and down Mussey Grade watching the fire, monitoring warning neighbors, warning friends, helping whoever we can and in the midst of it around probably 6:30 or whatever, thereís our neighbors son all looking charred up with his truck standing there crying and crying because his dad is busy still fighting the fire and heís wondering if he should go back but heís all charred up and weíre saying no you canít go but he wants to go and we look up and yep, the house is all smoked out, we said listen, you stay here, weíre going to drive up and see if we can help so here we are both of us driving on this road, taking Leonís road, Foster Truck Trail and thereís fire coming on the side and weíre wondering should we go and weíre going no, we got to go, thereís nobody here, thereís no fire department, thereís nobody who was going to come and rescue anybody so we just kept on going.  Luckily our neighbor just drove ahead of us and we said thank goodness youíre fine and so we came down and we walked around on that day we came on top, we evacuated even though we didnít want to and we couldnít get down Mussey Grade Road so we had to walk down towards the later part of the evening, weíre walking down the road and weíre asking anybody who comes by, is anything there and everybody says, everything is burned down on Mussey Grade.  Finally we kept on walking and we past just down Dos Picos Road and fire is burning on either side, fires burning on top and weíre walking and Reggieís saying, we got to go check the house, Iím looking at him, Iím going no, no, no, no, this is dangerous but at the same time you feel like we got to do it, nobody else is going to do anything for you, youíre on your own and then luckily coincidentally a friend was driving and said, ďyou guys need help,Ē and we said, ďsure,Ē so he drove us down, he came the same spot we turned around and he said, ďuh huh, I donít think I want to drive down this road, the thing is too dangerous.Ē  Just then two cars past by and he said, ďif they can go, by golly I can go too,Ē so he goes, ďhere we go Lady Renee,Ē and he took us down to our house and there was our home still standing, trees still burning so immediately we turned, took the hose and started taking the water onto the trees.  So the house is there luckily, everything around is burned but if it wasnít for our own effort and neighbors and friends helping, there wasnít much there you could say about anybody else.  I know people donít want to point fingers and say who is to blame but I do know that I do pay my fire protection on my water department bill so who do I ask accountable to people I pay to so all I want to know is I hear Mussey Grade, 129 homes burned, thereís a sense of feeling that yeah, itís one of these run down poor neighborhood, who cares, clean it up, let it burn, and so it doesnít send a feeling of caring from anywhere. So after the fire what I would like to hear is who is caring for what happened on Mussey Grade.  Thank you.


Reggie:  Reggie, [Mussey Grade Road].  We live in an old house, probably the oldest house still standing around the county, itís about 140 years old, made of nothing but dried redwood, itís like a kindling, fire in the path of this, kindling pile in the path of this huge fire.  Itís still standing, it shows how capricious the fires are, canít predict what itís going to do.  Weíre up in the morning because a friend Leon called and warned us, we had no idea there was any fire activity prior to then.  There was no official response, if youíre going to talk about the official response to that fire on Mussey Grade Road; weíre talking about nothing so consequently thereís not much to say.  There was one police unit briefly on Kimball Valley Road taking a look early on, left without giving any warnings, and then when it was obvious and completely evident that you had to evacuate, thereís this one panicked guy go by in his car, but I donít remember if he was sheriff or CHP but someone mentioned fear in his voice and in a panic moving out of there and he did try to give some warning, drove up saying evacuate, there was no fire personnel.  I saw the first units arriving at Mussey Grade Road as I evacuated.  I finally left my house under pressure at about 8:30 in the morning and as I just approached Dye Road there were three red, two or three red trucks heading toward Mussey Grade.  I understand they never got down past Dos Picos Park Road so there was no fire protection whatsoever until at least 8:30 in the morning.  Now later they got some emergency personnel up there to block off the road which made it difficult to go back and try to save your own property, you couldnít get through there with a vehicle, fortunately I had left one inside and I was able to walk down and act as a taxi for other people getting up and down the road and it was important that they did because it was only through their own efforts that anyone was able to save their property, including my own.  We were told everything was burned, it wasnít.  By that time there were vehicles going up and down the road, fire trucks and stuff when we were coming back about eight or nine hours later.  There were trees burning in front of this old board house, nobody bothered to squirt a little water on it so we had to go back there and do it ourselves.  Thatís about it, and then the emergency response later, a big fair, we got FEMA in here, we got the Red Cross, everybody is spreading around papers like mad, want you to fill out papers, youíve got deadlines, you got a life to rebuild, you got everything lost, you donít have anywhere and many people with no where to go and no insurance and they spread around a lot of paperwork, hurray, and then of course there is some immediate direct relief which was good.  But a big surprise, a Buddhist group shows up handing out actual cash money that people can get something done with and then some others and in the aftermath of this one of the most surprising thing is that I found is that people who need the aid most get nothing, flat nothing.  I have neighbors that make about $150,000 a year, theyíre getting SBA loans, they move into big expensive homes, I have other neighbors that are totally uninsured, they live in modest houses at very modest means and very modest jobs and they donít get SBA loans or anything else, a few bucks that already there.  So I would like to consider not only their response to the fire during the period of the fire but perhaps in the aftermath and of course itís a much bigger issue, itís about the whole structure of our society and the way people care for each other or donít, itís a huge issue, itís just something else to be thought about.  To those who have shall be given, to those who have not, etc.  So thatís my concern.

 

Bob Krysak:  Anyone else who cares to speak?

 


Sally:  I have a bunch of stuff written down, my name is Sally, [] my last name is spelled [], I live at [Mussey Grade Road].  I guess this is the first night of the fire, because it was about 11:30 PM, well between 11:00 and 11:30 PM that I heard all the fire trucks coming from the west end of town so that would probably be the CDF fire trucks and I saw many of them, at least four or five going down 67 and then they made the right turn onto Dye Road going towards the Estates and usually whenever I see the fire guys going out I always tend to like to follow but I donít want to get in their way so this time I decided well this might be something real big because the amount of fire trucks I saw.  At that point I couldnít see anything though from Mussey Grade and so IÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  Were you at home?

 

Sally:  Yes, I was at home, yes.  I decided to get into my truck and drive up Oak Valley Road because I knew if I drove up Oak Valley Road Iíd have a higher viewpoint from the road so I drove up there and as Iím driving up Oak Valley Road I hear another group of fire trucks coming from the west end so those trucks were coming maybe from Poway or maybe from Lakeside Iím not sure because I knew that the first group were from our own CDF fire station at Woodson and I think probably our Ramona fire truck at Dye Road the Chapel Lane fire was probably already gone and out to the fire, the Estates fire, Iím not sure because I didnít see any of that all I know is that I went up to Oak Valley Road, saw the view point, saw the fire and then I have to agree with Dale on Mussey Grade, the fire was like napalm because what I saw from that viewpoint was one fire moving westward and kind of in a southwest motion and then I saw it split within seconds, I saw it jump, the fire jump at least three hundred to five hundred feet maybe further in a stretching motion, it jumped into another fire area okay so at that point then with another split second, snap of the fingers I saw it split into a third fire and so weíve got three fires going at once then at that point when I saw that happening and at that time it was probably about midnight or 12:30 when I saw the split path occur so I knew at that point I better get down Mussey Grade and start waking people up.

 

Bob Krysak:  What time was it when you heard the second group of engines?  First group would beÖ

 

Sally:  I would say maybe a half hour, yeah and at that point I was just trying to wake up as many people as I could.  If I would have had a megaphone or something like that I would have been using it.  It was about 1:30 AM when I went to the Village to wake people up down there and it was, I have to also agree with, I donít know who it was, Mitchell I guess or it was Diane Conklinís husband, I have to agree with about people werenít listening, people didnít believe me that this fire was moving fast and I knew from the terrain and from living on Mussey Grade Road for thirty years and also Iím a native San Diegan, that this fire was out of control and it was going to be out of control and there was no way of controlling it because the wind was so bad and I knew that the fire bombers werenít going to be able to get out there because it was dark and the wind was impossible.  The wind, a helicopter can not fly in that kind of wind, number one, number two the smoke was so bad that they wouldnít be able to see each other okay, if they were flying so we would have had some more crashes and we donít need any more crashes with our fire pilots.  I have to say that itís very emotional, even for me, even though I didnít loose anything, I almost lost a horse though in the fire, I didnít realize the fire had gotten where it did as fast as it did though because I was so upset that no one believed me about the fire that I went home and went to sleep and somebody came and banged on my window at 3:30 in the morning and woke me up and told me that the fire was right next to the ranch where I keep my horse which is at Seven Meadows which is right next door to the Reggieís and so I got on the phone and I called the ranch, the guy who takes care of the ranch down there his name is ZZZZ, I called him and then I proceeded to go down Mussey Grade to evacuate the animals and help them out and so thatís what I did and also with Isaac I want to agree also with him about this is the type of fire that you only see once in a lifetime, if even that.  I can say a lot more, I have a lot written down but I will give you that information later tomorrow Iíll bring it over but itís been a very emotional thing for all of us but I want to also find out who wrote the article in the Sentinel, it was a separate little newspaper thingy, it wasnít the Journal, I donít know who it was or what it is but it was something about rebuilding the Main Street part of Ramona.  I wanted to just take that piece of paper and throw it because we have to rebuild our town, not Main Street and weíve lost a lot of homes, weíve lost, there are people that have not received any monies and there are people that have had to rebuild their homes before in the past with the 70ís fires and some of these people are elderly and they donít feel like rebuilding again and I hope to God and pray to God that we get some help for those people, the elderly people especially those that lost their homes on Mussey Grade and thatís all I have to say right now.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thank you.  Anyone else wish to speak?

 

Sally:  Thank God we didnít loose any lives on Mussey Grade, itís because of people like Diane Conklin who I think deserves an award and I hope that she gets one and Iím going to see to it that she does and thereís a phone number that weíre supposed to call, I think itís Channel 15 News who wants to know who are those people out there, well thatís who we need to contact, Iím giving this woman an award because sheís done a lot for our community and so has Diane Jacob and so are these men right here and I want to thank all of you for doing all of what you have done and our fire people have done a lot and we love our fire people in this town, all of us do and we appreciate what was done because there wasnít a whole lot that they can do to control anything but they did what they could and what they did they saved a lot of other homes, itís just sad that it happened the way it did but all I can say is they did a hell of a job, our fire people.


Ted:  Hello, my name is Ted, I live at [Fernbrook].  I was probably one of the last ones out of the Kittyís Cafť area, XXXX, myself, his two sons and his wife and daughter were basically working a little fire line up there.  I call it south, some people call it east of the houses, up on top, Gilbertís house was probably one of the last ones that we tried to maintain the line behind and it went and then we moved over to the trailer park areas.  When the fire came up behind the ridge there and presented, thatís when XXXX, his sons and myself decided it was time to leave.

 

Bob Krysak:  What time was that?

 

Ted:  Somewhere around 8:00, the only way I can really verify the time is Carla called me to ask if her house was still there and how the fire was going, somewhere around that time and I really donít know exactly what it was because I cut her off and I told her I was kind of busy trying to stay out of fires way at the present time and that was the truth.  There is a cell phone bill that has that verification if we need to have it, I can dig it out, it probably has the time on it.  At no time the entire morning did I ever see a fire truck.  Right after we decided to quit trying to fight it we took a couple of vehicles out, there was a CHP officer that was operating a roadblock down there and he came out right behind us and moved up to the old house that I just sold which was [Fernbrook], that house is still standing by the way and that was where they pretty much moved the roadblock to because of the clearing there, thereís a nice clearing around the house and in the front yard and everyone was kind of accumulated there and between the time that we left Kittyís Cafť and moved up to [] Carla managed to slip back in and try to save some of her belongings because her house was still standing at that time, the fire had not jumped over to that side of the road.  I canít really recall personally seeing anything happen other than that because thatís about the time that I left and we werenít allowed back in the area for about the next two or three days.  As far as actual times go, we were just running around trying to help each other get their animals out and try to load horse trailers and try to help people get possessions out, we didnít even get our own stuff out but we got the animals out and we got the people out and that was the important thing but as far as looking at a watch and saying yeah it happened here, it happened there, in a situation like that a lot of people donít really care about time, you just do what you got to do and thatís about all I have to say.  Thank you very much.

 

Bob Krysak:  Thank you very much. Anyone else.  Once again even those who donít speak have the option right up until the report is finished to provide any kind of written input to me at the Water District and it will be incorporated into the report.


Unknown Speaker:  I have a question.  The fire hydrantsÖ(Inaudible).

 

Bob Krysak:  Apparently not if there were no trucks down there to use them.

 

Unknown Speaker:  Why canítÖ(Inaudible).

 

Bob Krysak:  We thought of that but I think that one of the problems might be, if we allow, or if the citizens in general are allowed to hook up fire hoses to every fire hydrant that might degenerate the pressure in the entire system which would impede any fire fighting effort there is.  I donít know that to be the case, thatís one of the issues we will be discussing.

 

Unknown Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Kit Kessinger:  Renee, Renee, one of the things we were told is houses were burning and the pipes were rupturing.  That pressure was actually lost and there were individuals who were trying to fight fires further, fight fires in their own homes further down Mussey Grade Road and the pressure went, itís not that there wasnít any water in the lines, itís because all that water went out (inaudible)Ö

 

Unknown Speaker:  (Inaudible)

 

Kit Kessinger:  And Iím glad there was but you can understand the potential problem, if fire hydrants were going on, if people who were in the face of this fire were having to leave hastily and not turning fire hydrants off, you can understand that there could be all kinds of problems, itís something, there may be some way to workÖ

 

Bob Krysak:  The answer would be the problem would have beenÖ(Inaudible)Ö

 

Unknown Speaker:  (Inaudible).

 

Kit Kessinger:  A lot of water trucks were used that way.

 

Bob Krysak:  Letís talk about that for a minute, what weíve heard through the testimony through all the three meetings is that other than this fire that the CDF has been there for those other fires and construction fires and so youíre saying you want to give up all fire protection down there even on an individual basis, I donít think you want to do that and I donít think thatís a solution.

 

Diane Conklin:  (Inaudible).

 

Bob Krysak:  I donít agree with that at all, I think that tomorrow you all will count on the CDF, or those who are left, coming to your house for a heart attack or stroke, fires in houses that are left, they will do that and always will, and of course, and by that time and a lot sooner than that we will have some systems in place to deal with catastropheÖ(end of tape).