October 22 to 26 was the week when many Southern California homes went up in flames. Here is one Filipina's account of how she almost lost everything.
LCT of San Diego is very modest and didn't want her full name to be publicized but she generously agreed to share her story.
She originally sent a version of this letter to family and friends to let them know of their status.
LCT is not a reporter – she is a nurse by profession - but her comprehensive account of her wildfire experience showed a considerable storytelling skill.
Her care for others - including remembering to pick up a freeway driving-averse relative (all of us Pinoys have one, admit it), and volunteering her services as a nurse even when she was on the brink of losing her own house – is a real lesson in selflessness.
Breathless, real, and ultimately blessed with a happy ending, LCT's account will make you wish you have her quick thinking and strength when disaster strikes. What she did first when she came back home will make you smile: The lady obviously loves her plants.
–Yong B. Chavez, www.FilipinOnline.com
"Our house was blessedly saved from the fire. Miracles do happen. We survived the crisis.
It started Sunday for the Santa Ana weather; the wind was going 90 miles per hour. It started with two fires in the mountain but due to strong wind, the fires spread so fast and hit our place in Rancho Bernardo. On Monday, 4 a.m. I received call from 911 that we have to evacuate at once due to fire.
Got out of bed, took whatever I can: important documents, pictures and some clothes.
Of course [my husband] Ric told me not to panic.
But I wouldn't take any chances. I went out first, picked up my older sister who does not drive on the freeway, and waited for another sister in my nephew's place.
Ric finally left the house after the sheriff asked him to leave or else he will be cited. There were about 5 police cars in our street at that time knocking at every house to evacuate.
On Tuesday, the strong winds continue and the fire spread more. [We saw] our neighbors' houses burning down. The apartment they were showing on TV was just across our house.
They called this fire a tornado due fire swirling upward, kaya yun ibang bahay not affected, parang bang pinipili lang.
I did not sleep at all and continued to watch news.
Then I decided to volunteer for medical help in the shelter they asked people to go to, the Qualcomm football stadium. I am glad I did it because people there needed help and were very appreciative. My experience as a volunteer and as evacuee was so rewarding. The people of San Diego were so generous and caring. It was so organized and the evacuees were happy and comfortable, kahit na nasusunugan na, as you see in TV. They provided hot food, folding beds, blanket, tent, toiletries, day care, live band, massage for 20 minutes, assistance for insurance, Internet and Fema assistance.
Parang street fair na may give aways pa. The real homeless people from downtown, nag-fiesta nga.
Wednesday, the winds died down. We still had fire but in our place, it was contained in our place. They let the residents get in for 5 minutes to get medicines so Ric went to the site and he was escorted by police to pick up his meds.
He was in tears when he saw that the house was still intact. It's just ashes outside and in some part inside the house because I forgot that the windows were open.
It was a relief. They closed a big area in our place due to the fire so nobody will burglarize the empty houses. It was blocked by the military and police so that it was also secured when Pres. Bush delivered his speech in the affected site.
After his visit it opened to the resident na.
I was so happy to be united with our house. I checked if the inside was intact and then I watered my plants. Nag-apple picking na ako sa floor but my persimmon fruits were still intact. I was called to work that afternoon.
On my way to work, I passed by the burned down houses and started crying again up until I reached work. My director of nursing saw me crying and with my eyes so swollen, she was so considerate sent me home. I was not emotionally and physically ready to work.
It's Friday, I didn't know where to start cleaning. There is still fire in the mountain and it started to be cloudy again so I stopped cleaning.
Right now, it's like war, helicopter and police cars are making their rounds to make sure it's safe.
I am glad to be here, and to retire here. Everyone is welcome to stay in my place if you are in San Diego. I don't have a new house but a comfortable house and I will cook for you."
LCT, San Diego