‘Out of The Ashes': Residents Reflect on the 10th Anniversary of the Witch Fire

The fellowship hall at Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian resembles that of a regular Sunday night church dinner.

But nearly everyone there has one thing in common – they lost their homes in the 2007 Witch Fire.

Sunday night they met to remember and to celebrate that they’re still here.

Christine Schandera was in Europe taking care of her dying father when the fire started.

“I remember talking to my husband about the fires because I saw them on TV in Europe,” she told NBC 7. “And I asked him what are you doing? And he said we are evacuating but nothing will happen to the house. And then the next day I called him and he said the house burned down.”

Patrick O'Sullivan said his daughter had to drive through the fire to get her car out. “She actually drove with fire underneath her wheels,” he added.

Not long after, O'Sullivan got an alert that his home's smoke and fire detectors had gone off.

“Then I saw our house actually burn on TV,” he explained. “You saw the roof cave in and crash.”

Remarkably, nearly everyone at the fellowship hall rebuilt on the same streets – many on the same plots of land once engulfed by flames.

“It has defined us by making us realize that the power is within us,” O'Sullivan said. “How you can overcome these tragedies with the support of the people around you.”

“It's a great way of saying look how we’ve all come out of the ashes,” Robin Kaufman, president of the Rancho Bernardo Community Council, said.

Countywide, 1,141 homes were destroyed and two people died in the fire, which started just after noon on Oct. 21, 2007.  

Contact Us