Pleased to join the forum and here is a page from my myspace blog called "Fire Cats Need Good Home"
I am here with my cat Borrego. He is the only cat I kept after the fire. The Witch Fire on October 21 2007 blazed through here and destroyed most everything in its path. I was living on the thirteen acres at the Leaning Oak Ranch on highway 78. I had ten or so cats at the time in addition to the twenty-seven pigmy goats owned by Dianne and three dogs. As the fire approached I had only a small amount of time to try and gather the cats together and stick them all in a really big dog carrier. I was unable to find three cats and so I was not able to evacuate those three. Applesauce whom I had for almost ten years was one of the cats I couldn't find and I worried so much and felt so bad about leaving her behind and possibly to her death. There was really nothing I could do at that point the power was off so the well pump could no longer pressurize the irrigation system and without water it would have been impossible to make any kind of stand against the ferocious fire headed my way. I couldn't even think straight about what I should have taken with me as far as personal belongings including my two gem cutting machines and years of irreplaceable mineral specimens. I just
didn't think about it at the time. I wish I would have now but that's just the way it goes. We threw Terry's spare tire out of his Jeep and loaded the cats and Max the big dog in with a couple of boxes of Dianne's documents We didn't really have much room anyway to take much stuff. We waited as long as we could ignoring the cops suggestion that we leave immediately. Finally, we retreated to Rancho Santa Fe Ct. which is the next street down and waited there. We could hear the fire destroying the house. We could see the sky glowing bright with the fuel of everything including the kitchen sink being consumed. It was hell. The wind blowing at around sixty or seventy miles an hour blowing ash into our eyes and just fanning the flames like a giant blowtorch.
More than 580,000 people were evacuated in San Diego County. Propane tanks, canned food, ammunition and a hundred year old house turned to embers and blowing high in the sky and across the valley driving the advancing fire onward. We could hardly see from the hot and still glowing ash beating us like a sandblaster and stinging our eyes. It was a classic "hell on earth" scene. I have seen wildfires before but I was surrounded on three sides now with flames as close as 300 feet away. This monster was eating everything and leaving nothing.
Poor Applesauce will need some luck to survive this. My heart wept for her. At the point which it was evident that we were in danger of dying ourselves Terry and I left for town knowing everything I left behind was now gone forever. It was a surreal drive with no more handful a few vehicles mostly camera crews trying to get their pictures along the side of the road. The 70
mph wind driving a hot red snow blizzard across the highway just west of the painted pony ranch. The hwy was blocked at magnolia and hwy 78. Not even homeowners were being allowed to go into the inferno from which we had just came from. In town we went to Chris's house where he has a large 12' x 10' animal cage where I could put the cats if we were going to stay. We didn't know yet if we would leave or not so the cats remained in the jeep while Terry, Chris and I loaded trash cans up with Chris's tools and into his truck in case the fire got to his house. The cops were trying to evacuate the entire town and drove up and down the road in unusual three car formation. They had stopped several times and told us to go we kept saying we were about to leave then we finally shut the garage and they though we had left. 90% of Ramona was forced to evacuate that night as the fire approached. At some point a power pole transformer exploded next to the house and Anna had seen enough so she took her young son Cole and left Ramona.
That night Terry, Chris and I made several trips on foot up hillcrest drive to check the advancing fire. It made it into the yards of houses less than a block from Chris's. It was weird as there were no people at all here. We hooked up peoples hoses and turned them on. We borrowed shovels from other yards and did put out some small patch areas of fire. This part of town didn't have the brush fuel like farther out of down where I lived. So the fire was actually manageable at this point and we were determined to prevent these houses from lighting and potentially starting a chain reaction of more destruction. We could see not 1/4 mile away houses farther out of town
getting destroyed. We watched the fire pass into the avocado grove just east of Amigos rd. There were no fire trucks to be seen. The fire dept. was overwhelmed and knew they could really do nothing to stop this fire. Maybe they couldn't but the three of us could do something so we spent the night putting out these spot fires in peoples yards. Our eyes burned so bad we had to wear goggles.
By morning time the fire had skirted the side of town where we were and headed north crossing Magnolia and eating homes from Magnolia westward down through Highland Valley all the way to Rancho Bernardo some 25 miles away. It was at this point that I released my cats from the small carrier and into the large cage in Chris's backyard. It was amazing that the sky was mostly clear since the winds had driven the fire and smoke west into north
At some point we decided we would try to get up to my place to see the damage. The roadblock was no longer at magnolia. The fire had forced those authorities west to the other end of town where they kept traffic from re entering Ramona so we were able to drive right back up to my house. The devastation was almost complete 4 out of 5 homes destroyed. Everything
reduced to a 2' tall pile of smoldering ashes. My rockshop, my truck and motorcycle, my collection of mineral specimens, everything I owned was gone. I cried for Applesauce as I looked at the devastation. The only structures still standing were the barn and Angel's shed.
Applesauce answered my cries and I couldn't believe she was alive. Poor girl had no whiskers left and had singed ears and much of her fur was singed. We loaded her into the jeep. We found a couple of small objects that survived not much to speak of. I was happy that Applesauce survived but still two black cats I couldn't find yet. We needed to go back to town so we headed back to Chris's. Upon returning the following day I was able to find the other two cats also in a semi singed state but alive. I saw a rabbit next to the road that was in shock it didn't run from me when I touched it. I had also seen a couple of dead rabbits. In Ramona, officials refused to let residents back into the neighborhood, even though the fire had swept past days before and was no longer a threat. The water system had been knocked out of whack, and there was no service. A group of 100 or more impatient residents stormed past a California Highway Patrol roadblock. In one angry confrontation, someone rammed a police cruiser. State officials summoned the National Guard. A few days later Terry and I were coming down Black Canyon Rd. at night and we came across a small kitten in the road. I couldn't leave it to die so I grabbed it up and took it to the "pen".
A week or two went by and during this time Terry and I would come by Chris's to feed and check on the cats. That was killing me. The kitties I loved so much locked in a pen cried when they heard my familiar voice. It was hard for me to see them in there and not be able to take them back home. There was no home to return to. Only Applesauce and the two black kitties were witness to the terrible fire. The other cats had no idea why they were in this pen. Applesauce was happy to be there out of the fire. I needed to find homes for them. I was told that a family in Ramona would probably take a
couple in so I went to them and spoke with the man. They had a fenced in yard. I asked if they could take 4 or 5 and he said they could. When I returned the next day no one was home but I released the 5 cats into the yard and left a 20 lb. bag of cat food.
I still have cats at Chris's. I suffered more anguish. Of the remaining cats at Chris's 4 of them were my most loved including Applesauce, Beeber, Sierra, and Borrego. I wanted o much to keep them. I loved them so much. "Why were the cats I loved the most still in the pen?" was a difficult question for me to get an answer for. I posted an add on craigslist "Fire Cats Need Home!!". A woman responded. It turned out she was the wife of the man who had already taken the 5 cats. She was willing to take 3 more. What a caring person Arden is. " hey Mike this is Arden....we got the feed for the cats. Why so many males? We prefer females. So I lost your number. Are these our cats now or are we holding them till you are settled again?? What are the last two? male or female?? how old are they are how friendly?? let me know ok? Thanks, we are getting ready to have them fixed. Since a few are more feral than others we think we can get them done through feral cats. Let me know about the other two. male or female and the other questions please answer. Thanks for the food. arden= next door neighbor who has five of your cats." She was the only person to respond to my post and
she helped me so much by taking in those cats. I was only able to take one cat to Leigh's so I chose to take Borrego. Leigh wanted the little kitten we found so we brought her to Leigh's as well. I wanted a place for Applesauce, Beeber and Sierra. A home where I could visit with them and see them from time to time. A home where they would be loved as much as I loved them. It was about a month since the fire, a month in the pen for them until I was able to find them a home. Blue Sheppard's wife Joann was willing to give the three a temporary home with her. Blue wasn't to happy about it at first seeing as they already had like ten cats or something but he agreed. Blue owns the world famous Stewart Mine in Pala about 50 miles from Ramona. He was also threatened by the fire but it never actually made it o his place. His home is Gems of Pala. Terry and I took my three cats up to Blue's one afternoon. We were going up to go mining in the mine and we were very lucky to do this as Blue doesn't let just anyone in his mine to go mining. Well we got there and Joann had a bag of clothes for me to take home which was
great being how I had no clothes. I took my cats over to Joann one at a time and introduced her to them while Blue, Terry, Scott and Erik watched from the Store's porch. Joann put each cat into her home. I had never been inside Blue's house. I know there were some cats in the yard that I have seen on occasion.
Turns out there were cats inside as well. I was very thankful at that point with a huge load off my mind. Finding a home for the cats really made my heart feel better for the first time in over a month. It was coming up on Christmas and I had talked to Blue and he wondered if I was going to get my cats any time soon. I told him I still had no place to take them to but I was working on it. It turns out that Joann had no intention of returning them at least that's what I came to know. She had "bonded" with them. She had them fixed as well. I was happy. I dont know how happy Blue was but I guess he eventually accepted them as well. I had just hoped for a fenced yard for them and they would have been happy with that since they were
outside/inside cats while I had them. They are now inside cats which is ok. They are safe and very much loved and I will forever be thankful to Blue and Joann as well as Arden who without hesitation offered they're houses and extended a helping hand out to me when no one else did. Arden kept only two of the cats and found good homes for the others. Blue and Joann still have Applesauce, Beeber and Sierra. It turns out Applesauce is now the senior cat at blues being how she is an older female she demands respect from all other cats. She is not very large but I am not surprised that she can put other cats in they're place.
Additional information . Blue ended up giving Sierra to an elderly woman who had recently lost her husband a cat . It has been a year and a half now since the fire . From time to time I go visit Applesauce and Beeber , however Beeber is scared of me even though she used to love me and sleep under the covers with me she relates seeing me to being placed in the pen and she will run and hide when I go to visit . On the other hand Applesauce , bless her little heart sees me and runs up to say hello , she relates seeing me to me rescuing her from the fiery hell . Borrego wad a UTI block and he cost me $1200 to save his life , but he is a very happy 3 year old Siamese cat now. I hope you enjoyed reading my story . Cats are just the best )
For pictures ( if they dont show up here see my blog on my myspace/mycatwilatackyou page ..
Borrego and Sierra two only a couple of days after the fire
Sierra and Beeber