When I woke up Tuesday morning, it was already very hot outside and we had a strong Santa Ana wind blowing. My heart sank, because in Southern California that means wildfires are coming. Sure enough, there was a rather large wildfire in 4S Ranch called the Bernardo Fire. Luckily, no one was injured and no buildings were lost.
However on Wednesday EIGHT fires broke out in roughly a ring around our house. It was late afternoon when the nearest to us, the Cocos Fire, started and I raced home. This is what I saw when I arrived.
I grabbed the camera and ran to the windows upstairs. The fire was behind California State University in an area known as Coronado Hills. It is now being called the Cocos Fire because it started on Cocos Drive. CSUSM was evacuated by the time I took this photo.
It didn't take long for the fire to jump Twin Oaks Valley Road and catch the hills on the south side of San Marcos on fire. It was definitely heading west as the smoke clearly shows. My wife arrived home and we tuned to the news on both TV and internet.
About 6 PM, I opened the sliding glass door and was shocked to see this! I took this photo from inside our family room. I have zoomed in slightly, but this isn't too different than it looked with my naked eye.
The fire was still raging in the Coronado Hills area. At this time, I don't think any homes had burned yet.
We took off the screen and leaned out the window upstairs by sheer coincidence at the same time the DC-10 dropped 12,000 gallons of retardant on the fire west of Twin Oaks Valley Road, in an area known as Discovery Hills. It is one of only two passes the plane made that day. It fights fires all over the western United States.
A second snap of that same pass. I am very lucky the camera was in my hand and ready when it made the pass!
It had some effect as the flames did subside. White smoke means the firing is dying out. Black smoke means it has found new fuel.
Unfortunately this was followed about an hour later with renewed black smoke in Coronado Hills. We did begin losing homes at this point.
Here are the flames racing down Coronado Hills towards the 78 freeway. There are eucalyptus trees in the foreground - those trees are full of oil and go up like torches when fire hits. Just to the right of those is an avocado grove. Avocado trees stop the fire dead and are the best type to plant around your house here in Southern California. This photo was taken about 7:30 just about dusk...the fire was going to obviously burn through the night.
And it did burn through the night. I was at work during most of the worst of the fire, but you can find photos of the firestorm online. The winds had shifted to be an onshore flow which pushed the fire towards Escondido. When I got home in the afternoon, this is a photo I took from our rear windows. The fire is further left (east) than the day before. The area that had burned the prior day can be seen smoldering on the right. And actually that area had burned again on this day. Amazing that the fire went through and left enough brush to burn yet a second time.