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A first hand account of the Southern California wildfires

Bill and Anita Ellenberger of Tyrone submitted the following article for the readers of The Daily Herald.
Their son, Aaron, and his fiancée, Athena, live in Escondido, CA. Athena sent the following as an email to their friends and family about their ordeal escaping the fires in San Diego County.
Greetings: I just want to send along this message to our out-of-state relatives (please feel free to forward this message along to any other relatives or friends that may be concerned) to let you know that Aaron and I are now home safe and thankfully still have a roof over our heads! The past two days were pretty crazy to say the least, Sunday we awoke to extremely intense Santa Ana winds and heard there were fires in parts of San Diego county that were very far away from us, but by 11 p.m. that evening we were watching TV when an emergency announcement came on saying that all Ramona (an adjacent‑town)‑residents had to evacuate their homes, we were a little worried but not too concerned for our own safety at that point in time so we went to bed.
However, the wind was blowing so strong that I could hardly get any sleep, my woman\’s intuition was kicking in and I could feel something was wrong, so around 3 a.m. I decided to take a look out the window and saw a blood red moon and clouds of smoke in the sky. I turned on the TV and the news was reporting on every major station that the fire was getting close to the Wild Animal Park which is about 10-15 minutes away from our home. So I woke up Aaron and we nervously watched the news and got some important items packed up, but by‑6 a.m. the winds started to head a southwest direction towards Rancho Bernardo (another adjacent town) and since we live in southeast Escondido we decided that our area was safe and went back to bed to try and get some sleep.
But by afternoon our phone was ringing non-stop with calls from concerned friends that live in our area, the fire had split in two directions and was heading towards our area of town, and sure enough around 2:30 p.m.‑a friend of ours that lives 5 minutes away called to say he had been evacuated, and within minutes we heard sirens and a loud speaker going up and down our street, we went outside to see two motorcycle cops in masks announcing that we must immediately leave our homes and that this was our last warning, which was strange because we never received a first warning! By then the smoke had become so dense that is was hard to even see across the street so‑Aaron and I went‑into action loading up‑the PT Cruiser as fast as we could but unfortunately we had no masks so we inhaled a lot of nasty smoke in the process which we\’re still feeling the after effects of today, coughing and sneezing.
Our whole neighborhood was packing their cars up as well‑and we got out of here fast, the smoke was getting so dense and the wind was so hot that it felt like the fire was very close! It definitely was a scary moment having to leave your home not knowing if it would still be there when you came back. But we were safe and had one another and that was all that mattered at that moment! We definitely didn\’t want to go to some over-packed depressing evacuation center so we headed out to‑the coast where we met up with my parents (who live a few‑blocks away from us and got evacuated minutes after we did) at the Carlsbad mall, after hanging out there for a couple of hours we were getting restless so we called up a friend who lives in the area and he let us hang out at his house for the evening but as night was falling the news was saying that evacuated Escondido residents wouldn\’t be allowed back in their homes for at least 24 hours!
So we started trying to find a hotel room but they were all booked up so the closest reasonably priced‑hotel we could find with vacancies was up in Santa Ana (how\’s that for some irony?)‑which is a little over an hour away, so we drove up there and even saw fire along the freeway in Irvine! Well we finally got settled around midnight and got some sleep, my parents called the next morning (they opted to stay the night at an evacuation center)‑to say they were back at home and everything looked fine, just a lot of smoke in the air. So we headed back home and got here around 1 p.m., there was definitely still smoke in the air but it\’s clearing out and as long as we stay inside with the fans on and all the doors and windows‑closed up the smoke isn\’t that bothersome.
Very thankfully the only damage done to our house‑was a large branch that broke off the tree on the side of our house and the umbrella to our patio table also broke, both very small insignificant things‑in comparison to the damage‑done to‑many of the homes in our town and county. One of my friends who lives on Palomar Mountain‑lost his family\’s three-home compound to‑one of the fires!‑A very nice‑couple that‑come into my work for dinner weekly also‑had‑their‑very large home‑and Porsche get completely burnt! There\’s not one person in Southern California who hasn\’t been affected by this natural disaster, the only silver lining is that although homes and property have been destroyed at least lives were saved, largely due to the mass amount of evacuations! Well I did manage to take a few pics during all the chaos, and keep in mind that these photos are completely unedited, the orange sky in the first photo is real and was taken around 1 p.m. on Monday afternoon, a couple of hours before we were evacuated! Thanks again for everyone\’s concern, and San Diego will no doubt be back to‑its normal beauty‑and serenity‑in no time! \”Stay Classy San Diego!\”
Sincerely,
Athena and Aaron