(partial) STORY — Mission Valley fire burns four acres


See the full story here.

My contribution

As the fire continued to burn, parked cars lined both sides of Camino del Rio North near the Courtesy Chevrolet business as motorists stopped to observe and snap pictures of the fire.

In the 15 minutes Jack Ahrens of Pacific Beach had been standing there, the 29-year-old witnessed the quickest fire he’s ever seen. Ahrens was on his way to go shopping when he spotted the flames.

He saw firefighters scurry from the top of the hill to attack the flames and watched as helicopters, which were scooping water out of the nearby San Diego River, made drop after drop.

“I’m definitely nervous for the people who live up there,” he said.

Ahrens said he saw people on Interstate 8 almost getting into wrecks because people were stopping to watch the fire.

View from my cubicle at the Union-Tribune. Notice the houses at the top of the hill.

Random observations

The California summer is everything it’s cracked up to be. The intense desert heat, the flaming sun rays that feel like fire on your face. And of course, the real fires. I witnessed my first today.

The herd of journalists crowding around the window beside my desk signaled the arrival of the dreaded flames. I’d barely had time to snap a picture before someone volunteered me to rush to the scene and get some reactions.

What I saw can only be described as a ballet. The organization and precision with which the city reacted was a dance choreographed both by familiarity with summer blazes and respect for their power.

The swooping planes and the scurrying firefighters pushed back and forth against the fluid fire, rapidly making its leaps up the hill near houses and hotels in University Heights. The helicopters meticulously rushed in and out like a flowing tide. Each shield of water they dropped sent another sizzle into the already rising smoke, which looked like dirty translucent sheets ruffling in slow motion.

Less graceful were the reactions of passersby. Traffic jams and confused or worried pedestrians filled the streets and sidewalks. A contingent of police officers directed the congested motorists and vainly tried to stop people from walking toward the flames. But they had to work or get their cars or meet friends or go to hair appointments and wouldn’t be stopped for the fire that appeared almost choked out.

The activity of the area slowly ebbed out into other parts of the city as the water flowed to the earth and proved its dominance over the flaring hillside. But left behind, with the smoke still rising, was an ashen patch of scortched ground stretching from the top of the hill to the bottom.

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