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Life in Julian: Firestorm!

During the morning of last Sunday, an eerie, uncomfortable feeling came over me. I walked outside of my house, which is deep in the forest of Julian and looked around. The skies were clear. Nothing seemed to be amiss. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.

I went inside and asked my wife and children to get dressed. My wife dressed our two year old, and my son, after some prompting (as he was trying to watch television and was ignoring me) finally got dressed. I walked outside again, and there it was. Off in the distance, about six miles from my house, was a massive plume of smoke reaching to the heavens. Fire! And a huge fire, it was.

The weatherman had already issued a “red flag” warning for the day. Hot, dry Santa Ana winds were blowing in from the desert. Devoid of humidity, these winds come every October to Southern California and they dry everything out.

The fire in the distance was terrible to behold. If the wind changed, the fire would quickly approach the forest that I live in and the forest, after a very long drought, was dry and ready to explode into fire.

Although no evacuation order had been issued, I packed the car with a few belongings. With the sound of sirens howling across our small town, we headed down to the sea. One of the two possible routes to the sea out of the forest was already blocked by fire. We took the alternate route and made it safely to San Diego.

We managed to find a room in San Diego at a Westin hotel. Two days later, they would kick us out into the streets saying “we had a convention booked and we need your room.” A the time they kicked us out more than five hundred thousand people in San Diego County were homeless, evacuated from the fire. This is more people evacuated than even during the Katrina disaster.

We were able to find another hotel through sheer luck at Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites. This is a nice place, and not too expensive. They have rock concerts during the summer months, with people like Ringo Starr and Stevie Wonder. I recommend this place. Try it during your next major disaster or summer vacation.

We’ve been waiting for a week to see if our house has burned down or not. The fire has consistently been about three miles from our house. I called my insurance agent to check on our house insurance and was told “he’s not in right now because his house burned down.”

About 1200 houses or more were destroyed in the County. 1 out of every 5 people in the County found themselves homeless during the worst part of the fire. The fire is still raging out in the country where I live.

On television, the President, Governor and Mayor, along with other politicians, repeatedly said how well each other were doing. Meanwhile, 19 military fire fighting aircraft were grounded due to government red tape, while people were dying and houses were burning.

I often drive an hour and a half from my house to shop at the nearest mall in a larger town called Escondido. About a mile from the mall, a couple died in their home because they didn’t evacuate.

The nearest town to Julian, where I do my shopping sometimes, is called Ramona. Ramona has about 35 thousand people in contrast to the 600 or so that live in my town. Ramona has a super market and a drug store, things that Julian doesn’t have. We have a drug store but they aren’t a pharmacy, so it really isn’t a drug store, if you follow me. You can buy a small box of Band-Aids there, but no prescriptions can be filled.

Ramona was evacuated before Julian was evacuated, because the winds blew the fire away from Julian into Ramona, which is about a half hour from my home. Homes burned in Ramona. Horses, even camels, died. The houses imploded and the municipal water system emptied out. Now it will be days, maybe weeks, before the water can be turned on.

The government refused to work over time on the water problem. Everyone in the water division went home at five in the afternoon. People in Ramona wanted to go home, so they did, forcing their way past police road blocks. One Ramona resident rammed his car into the blocking police car. So, fearing a mass insurrection, Ramona was opened up by the government. But Ramona has no water, so if a house catches on fire, as they sometimes do even when a fire storm isn’t raging, there will be no water at the hydrant. 35 thousand people are crapping into toilets that cannot be flushed.

Julian has no electric power. Julian may still burn down, but I think the fire fighters are doing a good job and that Julian is probably safe at this point.

The fire took out homes in the heart of San Diego, where the streets look like normal streets. For example, the Rancho Bernado area is not in a forest. It’s just a normal town. It burned like a huge blow torch was held by some mad god standing tall over the city.

During the main part of the fire storm, cell phones and land line phones often didn’t work. This was because 500 thousand people were talking to other people talking about the fire, or their lost home or missing people or whatever.

The city put thousand of evacuated people into the football stadium where they slept on cots under the stars. No showers.

I have had it relatively good at a nice hotel. Not the Westin, those bastards should rot in hell. Maybe I will sue them later, I don’t know. But the Half Moon Inn is really nice.

Lessons learned include the following:

Any town in California can burn during a fire storm. The town doesn’t have to be in the forest to be at risk.
If a major disaster comes, your government will be sure to screw something important up but will be sure to claim what a great job everyone in the government is doing.
Always evacuate when told to evacuate.
Your home can be replaced. Maybe, if you have insurance. Typically, insurance companies will try to cheat you, though.
If you are alive, that’s better than being dead, even if your home and stuff are all gone and your insurance company is cheating you.
Living in a city where no one can flush the toilet is probably not a picnic.
Always have a credit card ready so you can rent a room.
Make sure to ask for an “evacuation discount” at when you book your hotel room, not afterwards. They won’t give you a discount if you forget to ask in advance.
Have a bag with spare pants, socks, shirts, sweatshirt and underwear always packed in advance in case you have to evacuate in a hurry.

I hope to return home soon. I won’t forget that the local government caused homes to be destroyed due to the red tape thing holding up the military from helping.

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