I live in south Escondido on an old ranch overlooking the San Pascual Valley, a few hundred yards from the path of the Witch Creek fire.
Sunday I watched the fire progressing from the Julian area in the east to Rancho Bernardo, went to bed at 3:30 AM, woke at 5:00 AM, and I could see the fire burning -- going over and under the I15 freeway few hundred yards away, and into Rancho Bernardo. I knew we were in trouble. The mandatory evacuation order came on Monday morning around 9:30. At that point I totally lost my understanding of the English language, and I did not understand the message I just went out and closed the gate of the ranch.
I was contemplating leaving about 800 rifles and, perhaps, another 100 hand guns.
I loaded all the handguns, except one, in the trunk of the white Jaguar of my wife and started loading my old pickup truck with the rifles, chosing first my most precious ones. It is a very difficult choice.
This picture was taken as I was loading
I could only load a couple of hundred. The rest were piled up really close to the pool. We decided that, since we had several escape routes and a total panoramic view of the area, that we would ride out the fire to the last minute. If we had to leave, I could push the rest of the rifles in the pool take the animals and precious papers and bail out. My house is a old ranch house made of adobe and wood with a wood shingle roof and I knew that if I left the house it would burn.
So we rode out the fire. Water hoses and pumps at the ready for the occasional embers.
All the neighbours were gone. It was like a science fiction movie, nobody around, a lot of wind and a lot of smoke with an occasional orange glow anf flicker of flames. We followed the progress of the fire watching TV and listening to the radio with a map and a compass, on the kitchen table. By the midlle afternoon the fire was past us going west around Lake Hodges, but we could see the fires all over the hills across the valley. At night there were none of the multitude of lights we are used to seeing, every one was gone. I went outside of the gate aroung 11 PM and some strange people were standing there, so I went back with my Rottweiller and they decided to leave . We did not sleep all night, watching for the progression of the fire. This morning there was a lot of smoke, but things looked a little better, except for the fire on the mountain about a mile away. The wind is not as strong this afternoon even though the closest fire is on the other side of the freeway about a mile and half away. Some of the neighbours came back and the sky has started to clear up. I think we will be OK. We will have champagne for dinner.