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The Southern California fires are striking closer to home (I took these pictures today), and sadly it seems that arsonists are now playing a part in some of the newer ones. It also appears that the Southwest Riverside County area (speaking of Temecula/Murrieta), along with the the northeastern most section of North San Diego County (speaking of Fallbrook/De Luz) are getting short shrift in the local media. As some are saying, it’s too far north to usually garner attention in the San Diego media, and too far south to do the same with the Los Angeles area media…sigh.

This is due west of Temecula/Murrieta and probably the De Luz/Rosa fire. The plateau to the right is part of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.

THANKFULLY the North County Times/Californian has bucked the trend of San Diego/Los Angeles media disregarding our area, and instead has done a FABULOUS job, with their reporters: Lauri Lockwood, Brian Eckhouse, Pete Zanko, John Hunneman (hope I’m not missing anyone!) taking turns staying up throughout Tuesday night(10/22/07) to post fire and evacuation information in the comments section of the North County Times story “Fire breaks out west of Temecula.” This truly was the ONLY “real time” and practical information (other than the Riverside County Fire Department site whose info was fairly static after the initial report) worried residents could get on the new “Rosa” fire, which broke out at Via Santa Rosa and Rancho California Road, west of Temecula, at approximately 11PM on Monday, 10/22/07. Readers could post information from their various locations, which helped others getting a better grasp of the constantly-changing situation. The reporters gave updates from the California Department of Forestry and also posted scanner information. The story and comments are continuing as of this posting, nearly 24 hours later! Thank you SO MUCH, North County Times/Californian!!

Poomacha/Palomar fire going south on I-15, just before the Winchester exit.

Poomacha/Palomar fire from the Winchester/15 intersection.

So I ventured out today after having spent the majority of yesterday indoors, and I have to say that seeing three different fires from a vantage point high atop a nearby hill in northern Murrieta (where I took most of these pictures) was a major dose of reality. As we all know, seeing something like the SoCal fires on TV NEVER comes close to capturing the intensity and shocking reality of seeing it in person. While I was many miles from any of the fires it was truly bizarre and jarring to see the actual smoke and crazy skies in person that I’d only been hearing about and seeing on television. I could see the immense cloud of smoke from what I believe to be the Poomacha/Palomar fire (Hwy 76/Pauma Valley in San Diego County) south of Temecula/Murrieta, along with seeing the smaller but equally frightening plume of smoke coming from what I believe to be the De Luz/Rosa fire (west of Temecula), and further north smoke from what I believe is the Running Springs fire in San Bernardino County. Three fires within view; disturbing and sad to see.

I believe this is the Poomacha/Palomar fire on the Hwy 76 corridor in Pauma Valley (San Diego County), south of Temecula/Murrieta (Southwest Riverside County).

Around 9PM this evening my poochie, Rudy, and I took a drive down the 15 (which was now open, but had been closed for a good chunk of yesterday and today), something, by the way I wouldn’t have done if there was ANY chance it would hinder any type of rescue efforts, but the fires had moved away and the I-15 was open and pretty deserted. I could see the red glow of the Poomacha/Palomar fire as I was heading south on the 15 from Murrieta, and as I got closer to Hwy 79 I could actually see the flames, but as I ventured south on the 15 closer to the Border Patrol check-point (for non-locals, there is a Border Patrol check point NOT at the US border…confusing, yes? ;)) you couldn’t see the fire at all. Moving a bit further south you could suddenly smell the smoke; something which had surprisingly been missing from the Murrieta/Temecula area over the past days since the high winds had been keeping it from us. I have to say I suddenly questioned what the heck I was doing driving down the freeway which had had the fire jump across it earlier, but realized it wouldn’t have been reopened if it wasn’t safe, and there was just something gnawing at me to see and experience the reality of what had been happening to my neighboring areas (without interfering with any rescue efforts or evacuations). I especially questioned not only my sudden trip down the freeway, but why the freeway was open when I came across a bright red glow which turned out to be a pretty decent sized fire flare-up about 100 feet from the freeway, just south of the Mission exit. No fire trucks were around, but there was some sort of police/sheriff/CHP car standing guard. Unfortunately there were also folks who for some reason felt the need to pull off the side of the freeway to gawk. Driving down the freeway and checking things out is one thing, but to risk the safety of anyone in your car or those in passing cars by pulling off the freeway is just nuts. Hopefully no one will be injured, and the flare-up will be knocked down soon.

Have to say it was great to see Nessy Burgers (locals know what I’m talking about ;)) still standing just off the 15 at the 76, since there were reports about nearby Pala Resort having suffered damage. In a way I’m glad I was around the area at night because I’m sure it would have been much more gut-wrenching to have seen places that are part of my history in this area, charred and damaged in the bright light of day. Although considering the heavy smoke that was still hanging around I wonder when the area will actually have a clear day again.

Short video I took from a Murrieta hilltop the afternoon of 10/23/07 of the Poomacha/Palomar and De Luz/Rosa fires. (The plateau to the right is part of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.)

View from a similar Murrieta hilltop the morning of 10/24/07 showing the overwhelming smoke filling the skies from the Poomacha/Palomar and De Luz/Rosa fires.

10/27/07 view of Poomacha fire from same area hilltop.

I would ask that those of you reading this blog entry, whether you’re a local just trying to keep up on the latest happenings in our area or former local concerned about your past stomping grounds, please continue to keep everyone involved in these horrific fires in your thoughts (1 in 6 San Diegans are currently evacuated!), and know that this is not something that will be “done” once the fires are finally out, but something that we will all be in for the long haul, helping our neighbors rebuild, renew, and recapture their lives. Be safe everyone!

Previous related blog entry: Southern California fires/resources (updated links/info)/Larry Himmel videos

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