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5/14/14, 8 p.m.

We decamped to our parents' house in Escondido partly because we were done watching San Marcos burn and partly to be with our parents in case things get scary here. So now I'm east of the 15, on the south end of Centre City Parkway. Safe and sound with the air conditioning working beautifully. I even laid outside on the shaded cement for a few minutes with my feet dipped in the leaf-strewn swimming pool. Calming down. It's a whole different angle over here. For instance, ice water, and the dog sleeping beside me. The sunset has everything glowing eery orange and purple. The sun smote out by smoke.

After that last dispatch I stepped out and surveyed the horizon. It took me a moment to notice the hills over in San Elijo were on fire. I must have been staring in that direction for a few minutes before I understood what I was seeing. The black cloud, the ugly flower blooming. With binoculars, my brother and I watched it grow, wondering why we couldn't see any planes or helicopters in that direction. We were too far away to tell if firefighters were there on foot.

It was probably past four o'clock when I saw the yellow Cal Fire helicopter circle over me, and another quarter hour until I saw one of those broad-winged planes fly into the middle of the fire. Then a moment later another aircraft dumped bright orange retardant into the blaze. Then another hill caught fire to the west. It looked volcanic, like Mordor, a wall of flame. It looked fake.

The fire was on the other side of San Marcos, by the university, and we were miles away, separated from it by a freeway and golf course. But my mouth was so dry, and I thought about my parents and their a/c unit and ice water. The dogs. So we packed up some stuff, papers, books, and notebooks and got in the car. We left the property at 5:30.

There was traffic on Deer Springs Road up to the 15, where there was a fire earlier today, one of what seemed like ten that burned throughout the county. Traffic on Deer Springs in the early evening is normal, so it wasn't until we hit the freeway that we could tell how bad it was. Northbound 15 was a parking lot and the little frontage roads were packed, too. Everybody going the other way. That was a weird feeling, but the coast looks clear in Escondido. Plenty of water here.

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Comments

Ken Harrison May 22, 2014 @ 9:34 a.m.

Great thoughtful insights in both articles, Paul. Thanks for taking time to share it. I don't know how our firefighters and first responders do this everyday. Just being on the fire line for my Carlsbad story for five hours wore me out for days.

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