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October 25, 2007: What Now?

A day after the fires stopped being an imminent threat to our home -- but while still threatening others -- the question turns to, "What now?"

For those of us in Chula Vista, it is back to life as normal. The fires came close -- really close -- but did not destroy homes in our community. So many others nearby were not as fortunate.

Beyond the initial recovery efforts, there is a long road ahead of those who lost their homes. After the fires four years ago, the fastest re-building was eighteen months. More typical were those who waited close to three years to have their homes completed to move back in.

In those three years, families were required to go on living day-to-day lives. They had to find rental homes. They had to work through the bureaucratic red-tape of insurance, building codes and permits, of trying to find qualified workers and avoid scams.

For those unfamiliar with California, the scope of the fires may be difficult to imagine. Let me try to explain it this way: Yesterday, our daughter Kaley's college in Costa Mesa (Orange County) cancelled classes for the rest of the week. They encouraged anyone who could get home to go home. So I drove up and got her. The I-5 between Oceanside and San Clemente had just been re-opened. I left smoke from the Harris Fire in Chula Vista; drove through the smoke from the Witch Creek fire going through La Jolla, Del Mar, Encinitas and Carlsbad; got north of Oceanside into the smoke from the Rice fire (Fallbrook); then passed the open flames of the Horno Fire burning on Camp Pendleton. Several lines of fire were visible from the I-5. The San Onofre power plant lines and towers were being threatened. San Juan Capistrano was about the only place where the air looked clear. Then, into the smoke from the Santa Marguerita fire (Orange County). It is about 100 miles from here to there. All but about 5-10 were covered with smoke and ash or active fire zones. That does not include the fires in Malibu and Big Bear/Lake Arrowhead.

Today, I began a little bit of the cleanup around our home. Using a broom to sweep, I filled a small trash bag with the ashes. The air is still thick and I suspect I will be filling another several trash bags with debris in the upcoming weeks.

That is small potatoes compared to the losses and cleanup that is taking place in the burn areas.

Tomorrow: Back to the Form of Government