Seventeen people died, including one firefighter, over 3000 structures destroyed, 150 vehicles, and approximately 400,000 acres were burnt.
It took firefighters seven weeks to fully contain it. Three seperate fires fueled by Santa Anas and low humidity joined to create one monster fire. The Firestorm of 2003.
A WAY TO HELP
My sympathy and condolences go out to the people who lost their lives and homes
in the California Firestorm of 2003. My heart also goes out to the family of Firefighter
Steve Rucker who died in the line of duty and to the fellow comrades who were seriously
injured beside him. I commend the bravery and duty of all the firefighters and people who
helped battle the Fiery Beast. Through my art I hope to provide comfort and hope to all I reach.
TESTIMONIAL and EXPERIENCE
Sunday, October 26, 2003, 10:07am. San Diego, I-15 between Miramar and Hwy 52.
The early morning of Sunday, October 26, 2003 will be a day us San Diegans won't forget: The Firestorm of 2003.
Of all people, my EX-girlfriend wakes me up with a phone call asking me if I looked outside and if I knew what was
going on. Once I looked outside and realized the burning smell wasn't a dream, I immediately turn on the television.
San Diego is on fire. The fireman in me awakens...(it's been a long time).
Not to gross out any of you single women out there (and yes, I'm single, probably because of my erratic schedule),
but when the alarm sounds, basic duties such as showers, teeth brushing, or combing your hair don't apply. Time
is critical. I splash hot water on my face, do a quick swish of Listerene, grab my camera, and rush out the door. Oh,
and my asthma inhaler...
It looked like Mars...literally. The sun was red. The sky was red. My eyes burned red. It rained ash and smoke.
Everything had a haze and was covered in soot. The blue-skied sunny Sandy Eggo we all know was gone.
Seeing California in monochrome will give you an eerie feeling. It felt like Doomsday. The 9/11 of San Diego.
Upon arrival at the 15 and Miramar ( only four miles from my home), I clearly see the fire's path of destruction.
I make it to the first trooper who was blocking the 15. I flash my badge and he lets me through. The smoke was so
heavy and acrid, I started to get nervous. I could barely see. Except for the flames and bloody sun...
The 15 was dead, except for a few shadows that came from the smoke. A lady drives by me as she's dragging her
horse by the leash to safety. She's distraught and crying. I bump into a photog from Channel 10 and we're both kinda
glad to see each other. We stick together for a while until we both disappear our separate ways into the smoke. Minutes
later two Marine MPs, choking and gagging, pull up beside me and asks me if I had any extra breathing masks. I didn't but
wish I did. Behind me a see another freelance photog capturing some breathtaking footage. I run into a cop on a motorcycle.
A lost city worker. I see the Channel 10 dude on a fiery hill. Birds around me are panicking. It was like a bad dream...
I've seen a lot of fires, but not like this. Bridges, trees, brushes, and "things" around me were all on fire. Even the
tumble weeds rolling past were burning strong. I heard of fire jumping roads, now I see it for myself -
jumping across a highway. Everything around me was burning dead. My eyes were stinging and my lungs
were choking. The flames were literally roaring in fury and dancing chaotically. The wind was gusting in all
directions, spreading flames and embers. It started to get very hot. I felt the danger.
The FIRE danced around me like humans dance around the fire...They spoke, they screamed, they laughed.
Twisting, turning, and jumping. It was awesome.
While out on the field, running through "Marine" terrain ( I was on the outskirts of Camp Miramar ), I sprain my back.
Talk about bad timing. I had to retire early because I could barely walk and was in intense pain. Later, I realized
spraining my back might have saved my life. I could have been out there for days in the middle of the fires, inhaling the
toxic fumes and possibly losing my life in the front lines. It's hard to say and I think about that all the time...
Please be safe, responsible, and count your blessings. Peace.
Copyright Ryche Guerrero. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any image without the artist's written consent is strictly prohibited and against United States Law.