Reflections from the Lilac Fire
Written by CRM
Monday, 12 March 2018 21:16

When the 2007 Cedar Fire blew through our San Diego County community I wrote in my Equestrian Newsletter,, that I wasn’t required to evacuate but was prepared to do so with trailer hooked up and then macaw cages ready.  On the morning of Dec. 7, this 2017 Lilac Fire forced me to run.  From the moment I spotted smoke to the east of our ranch I had less than an hour to load our horses, unload the safe and grab genealogy and treasured family photos on the wall before I threw the power switches on our gates and drove west with our 3 dogs.   The old Vessels Ranch was burning right across the street from our entrance gates and continued, I was to learn later, through our ranch and up over the hill to the San Luis Rey Downs Thoroughbred Training facility causing terrible devastation.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to help anyone but my animals this time.   My 5th wheel living quarter trailer remained on our property because we had just sold my Ford truck and my husband took his dully to the NFR in Las Vegas for A Cut Above Buckles on Mon.  A dear friend brought his trailer and took my horses to his ranch off of Olive Hill Road and I followed with dogs thereafter.   Shortly after settling the dogs in their kennel, we were glued to the news on TV and trying to figure out food provisions and sleeping options, when we spotted flames to the west of their home.

Once again, we were loading small animals, the six horses remained with our friend and his wife and I pulled out, I headed south to my cousins ranch in Poway.  Road blocks prevented my cousins husband from getting into Olive Hill to get our horses that night.  Thankfully the fire burn southwest around their ranch and our horses remained safe before we could relocate them to La Cresta several days later.

After a hot meal, cocktail and good nights sleep I headed north to see if we had a home left.  Fortunately, as a local realtor in the area I knew how to get around the road blocks and was able to find our home and barn were still standing but we lost our garage/office, travel trailer, bird aviary, spa, entire avocado grove and most of the landscaping in addition to fencing.  Both large properties, above and below us were charred black.  It looked like a bomb went off, parts of my landscaping were still simmering and I was able to use a bucket with water from our pool to put those hot spots out.  There was no power or water so I got the generator out of the barn and hooked up the freezer and refrigerator to save our food.  I discovered as much smoke inside our home as outside.  Thankful the firemen that  were able to save us from total loss, it was evident that they fought a battle where the fire burned a corner of our master bedroom.  I found ax marks in the walls where they broke through to put it out.

Lilac Road residents spent days with police and firemen, road blocks to keep people safe and looting down and worked together to get food and gas into the homes to keep some lights on and refrigeration going.  My husband and I are very thankful that we didn’t lose our animals or entire home to this fire.  So very sorry to hear from friends and news that so many thoroughbred horses were lost at the Downs and several neighbors lost everything they owned.

Being prepared for the unexpected is so very important, be it fire or flood or earthquake in our area.  I had my genealogy packed in a large Tupperware container and knew exactly what I would take if I had only a short time to go due to years of living through fire and floods in the Malibu and Topanga.  I normally have a truck and trailer that can be ready to move in minutes, my new 2018 Chevy Dully was sitting in Katy, TX and arrived weeks later.   Thankful to friends and family that helped take me and my animals in until we could find a lovely guest house in La Cresta during our repairs.  Review you insurance coverage and make certain that you have sufficient coverage for additional structures and replacement of your home.  Fortunately our insurance company has been very responsive but it is a daunting project to oversee all smoke remediation, rebuilding and subsequent erosion projects.

We are blessed!

I closed several sales of horse property and non-horse property during all of the above excitement.  Several buyers agents called to ask if their purchase was still unharmed and I was able to assure them that the property they were in escrow on was not affected by this fire.  One of my buyer’s was interested in a property for $1.7Million and it unfortunately, burned to the ground just east of our ranch.

On another note, we may have the threat of fire or flooding on occasion and that dreaded possibility of an earthquake but I have clients in Texas, Oklahoma and Florida that are experiencing 30 degrees below and still recovering from tornadoes or hurricanes!  We pay the “perfect weather” tax here in California!

Article provided by Devon Camilleri.