For some Scripps Ranch residents, the wildfires ripping through Southern California spark memories of their own survival 14 years ago when the Cedar Fire devastated their community.
On a Sunday in October 2003, homeowners on Pinecastle Street watched a growing wall of flames consume everything in its path, including more than 200 homes. In the wake of the destruction, the chimneys of scorched homes stood amid the ashes like tombstones.
Cedar Fire survivor Lisa Arnold remembers it vividly.
“It’s still sort of guteral, you know?” Arnold told NBC 7 Tuesday night. “There’s still a little bit of fear.”
Arnold lost everything. The Cedar Fire had not boundaries; those who thought they were safe in city limits were not safe at all.
“Oh, think again, my friend,” Arnold said. “Unfortunately, it’s very possible (for something like this to happen to anyone).”
The Cedar Fire was an example that wildfire threat isn’t exclusive to rural areas and San Diego’s backcountry.
Today, the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department said it’s prepared to handle a wildfire of this magnitude – wherever it could spark – amid the current Santa Ana event sweeping Southern California.
“We’re stretched as far as we can get. We’ve got everything we can put on the street to prepare for this, we’re doing,” SDFD Deputy Fire Chief Steve Wright explained.
Wright said 80 additional staffers are on the clock. It’s a preemptive build-up seen only once before in SDFD’s history. The extra resources include three Strike Teams, aircraft, mechanics, firefighters and dispatchers at the ready.
“We want to keep that small fire small and we’re going to throw everything at that fire to put it out quickly,” Wright added.
Like her neighbors, Arnold rebuilt her home, and over time, she also renewed her sense of confidence in the fire department’s ability to protect it.
SDFD officials said their strategy, should wildfires spark in San Diego, is simple and swift: a fast and aggressive response.
San Diego County is currently under fire weather and high wind warnings, per the National Weather Service. A red flag warning remains in effect through Saturday due to strong, gusty winds and low humidity, while the high wind warning is in effect through at least 4 p.m. Friday.