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FIRE The call rang out through the state of California that fateful day in October 2003 My personal experience felt harrowing I was trapped on the I-15 freeway with my 5 month old in the car Police and Firefighters rerouted traffic and turned us around I vividly remember driving North in the Southbound lanes and seeing flames in my rear-view mirror The nightmare did not end so quickly for the scores of other people whose homes burned down that day or in the next 45 days that the Cedar and Paradise fires raged out of control in Southern California In all 17 people were killed and 145 were injured The area burned was 329946 acres - greater than the size of the entire state of New Jersey San Diego Firestorm Community Recovery Team 2003 A crisis of this magnitude had never before been experienced in San Diego County Local fire fighting teams were unprepared and under-equipped for the ferocity of these fires The weather was a critical aspect in battling the flames When the fires began high temperatures and raging Santa Ana winds drove the fires with extraordinary fury Firefighters were able to bring the flames under control finally when the weather changed and brought milder conditions OES Planning and Technological Assistance Branch 2004 p 8 Fast-forward two years to the present day many of the elderly poor and underinsured residents of San Diego who lost their homes have yet to rebuild They are still struggling with the burdens of trying to rebuild their homes in a climate when insurance construction and finance companies call all the shots The process for rebuilding homes lost in the fires is challenging and laden with stress - even for those families who had adequate insurance Support from the community has diminished significantly as the memories of the horrific firestorms fade from our minds The communities struggling most today are in the unincorporated rural areas of east San
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