Fire News

Latest Information

The first building permit has been issued to residents of a home destroyed on Handrich Drive. As they begin to rebuild, approximately 77% of displaced residents have completely cleared their lots, including the foundation.

The Local Assistance Center (LAC) will move from the Recreation Center to the Information Center during the week of January 5. The following will have a presence at the new LAC: Councilmember Brian Maienschein's office, the Department of Development Services, and the Scripps Ranch Civic Association. The Information Center is located at 11885 Cypress Canyon Road. For more information, please call 538-8200.

The deadline to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) is now Friday, Jan. 9. Those who miss this deadline will not be eligible for assistance. No exceptions. You can register with FEMA by calling 800-621-FEMA.

To file for an SBA disaster loan to help rebuild your home, return the application--either to the LAC or by mail--no later than Friday, Jan 9. The SBA will be at the Rec Center until Friday, Jan. 9.

Roofs and Fire Danger

To download the entire report, please click here (PDF file). What follows is the version that was printed for the newsletter.

About 345 homes were destroyed or severely damaged in Scripps Ranch by the wildfire on Sunday, October 26, 2003. This article gives some statistics and analyses, based on roof type, for one Scripps Ranch neighborhood--Loire Valley, Phase 1--that lost 28 of 68 homes (41%). Although location within the neighborhood, such as proximity to bordering open space, was perhaps the biggest factor in a house's survival and although, undoubtedly, there were other factors, roof type was also important.

Loire Valley, Phase 1 is a good neighborhood for study, statistically speaking, because it has a mix of destroyed and surviving houses--neighborhoods with all homes destroyed or no homes destroyed give no meaningful statistics. The statistics for this article come from a complete neighborhood walk-through by two residents, Amy and Oren Patashnik. This article is a condensed version of a full report available on the SRCA website at [].

The houses in Loire Valley, Phase 1 were built starting in 1981. Initially, 22 of the 68 had curved-red-tile roofs (also called Spanish style, Mexican style, or Mediterranean style), and the remaining 46 had wood-shake shingle roofs. During the past six years or so, 33 of the 46 wood roofs were converted to fire-resistant roofs--either flat-tile/concrete or stone-covered steel. At least two of the remaining 13 wood roofs had been scheduled for conversion, including one beginning the very next day.

Here are the overall results: 28 of the 68 houses in Phase 1 were destroyed, including all 13 wood-shake shingle houses. That's highly statistically significant--the probability that all 13 wood-shake shingle houses would be included in 28 houses randomly chosen from among 68 is about .00012 percent, that's incredibly unlikely to happen by chance.

Those are results for Phase 1 as a whole. But Phase 1 actually consists of two loops--a front loop around the pool and tennis courts, and a back loop. I've heard from several residents and firefighters that the firefighters, during the initial firestorm, made their stand at the pool, and thus devoted most of their resources to the front loop. So, it makes sense to look at the two loops separately.

In the front loop, all 25 houses were saved except for the two with wood-shake shingle roofs. It was in the back loop that most of the Phase 1 destruction occurred.

In the back loop, 26 of 43 houses (60%) were destroyed:

  • All 11 wood-shake shingle houses;
  • 10 of 15 curved-red-tile houses (67%); and,
  • 5 of 17 houses (29%) with a newer fire-resistant roof--stone-covered steel or flat-tile/concrete.

The difference between the curved-red-tile houses and those with a newer fire-resistant roof is even more pronounced in statistics taken from the parts of the neighborhood that were most in harm's way. The full report has the details.

Conclusions and caveats: The wood-shake shingle houses did abysmally, the curved-red-tile houses did better, and the newer fire-resistant houses did best.

That the wood-shake shingle houses did badly surprises no one--the report merely corroborates everybody's suspicions. But the poor performance of the curved-red-tile houses compared with the newer fire-resistant houses surprises some people and needs a closer look.

There are some people, however, who are not surprised that the curved-red-tile houses did worse than the newer fire-resistant houses. They claim that the curved tiles have gaps that allow embers to find their way underneath and start smoldering. That's a plausible explanation--residents and firefighters reported that, in this fire with the high winds, there were embers flying every which way, including horizontally.

I've been told that the current classification standards for roofs--the curved-red-tile and the newer fire-resistant roofs are all Class A, the highest--are decades old, and don't require testing, for example, for horizontally flying embers.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the performance, on average, of the houses with a given roof type was due to the actual roof. There's always the very small possibility that the observed results were due to chance. And it's possible that some other characteristics of those houses, besides the roof, can explain the statistics. I know of no such characteristics, though, and the gap/ember explanation remains the most plausible one.

It's also possible that the poor performance of the curved-red-tile houses was indeed due to the roof, but with contributing factors. The full explanation could be quite complicated.

I have no expertise in roof classifications or in building codes. But if what I've been told about roof classifications is correct, and given the results in this report, it seems to me that those who do have that expertise should explore further to see if updated roof classifications and building codes are in order.

Oren Patashnik

Maienschein Updates Policy Changes

The new year is upon us, and with it comes significant progress in the effort to rebuild the 345 homes destroyed or damaged in the devastating Cedar fire. I am working with city staff to upgrade various city policies, including building codes and public safety services.

Building Code Changes

As you make decisions about how to rebuild your home, keep in mind that the city is considering important building code changes. The proposed regulations for buildings throughout the city include:

  • A citywide ban on wood-shake shingle roofs, and all existing wood-shake shingle roofs to be replaced in 25 years;
  • Mandatory use of noncombustible roofing materials; and,
  • Restrictions on the use of wood siding and wood structures.

The recommendations for homes in high fire hazard areas include:

  • Sprinklers in homes, including inside attics and garages;
  • Box eaves to enclose the underside of roof overhangs with noncombustible material;
  • Added protection for attic and eave vents and fireplace chimneys and restricted location of these vents;
  • Noncombustible material for roof gutters and down spouts; and,
  • No exposed wood fences, decks, or garage doors.

For the complete list of the proposed regulations, visit []. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the changes on Tuesday, Jan. 20.

Public Safety Services

As you may know, the city has funded a Fire-Rescue helicopter program for portions of the past two years. Throughout that time, I pushed for funds to operate the helicopter 12 months a year. I am pleased that in December, the City Council voted to spend more than $1.88 million to extend the helicopter's lease.

Funding for a full-time Fire-Rescue helicopter program is one of many improvements needed to ensure the city meets the public safety needs of all San Diegans. As chair of the City Council's Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee, I asked the city manager to work with the committee and public safety leaders to develop a long-term public safety action plan to implement in the city's fiscal 2005 budget.

One of my goals is to eliminate a common practice within the police and fire-rescue departments known as structural underfunding, which is basically the failure to budget for personnel, equipment, and facilities.

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact my office at the LAC at 790-0122.

Councilmember Brian Maienschein

House Plans

If your home was destroyed or damaged in the fire and you have not picked up the original record of your house plan, please do so at the Development Services table at the Local Assistance Center. For questions, call 790-0130.

Miramar Landfill Vouchers

The City of San Diego Environmental Services Department (ESD) is distributing fee waiver vouchers for the Miramar Landfill. Beginning Monday, Jan. 5, San Diego residents whose homes were destroyed or damaged can pick up vouchers at the ESD's Ridgehaven "Green Building," located at 9601 Ridgehaven Drive in Kearny Mesa. For information, call ESD at 694-7000.

If you have receipts and would like to be reimbursed for Miramar Landfill disposal fees of fire-related materials, call 492-5010. For reimbursement forms and details, visit the SRCA website at [] and look under "General Information"/"City of San Diego Waives Landfill Disposal Fees."

Project Phoenix Update

Project Phoenix is the special SRCA committee formed to help in the rebuilding process. It is the volunteers who give time and thought for many different activities that makes this a success.

The SRCA website and weekly emails to displaced residents are a tremendous resource in connecting those with a special need to those who can help. People from all over the country are sending monetary donations and gifts. Janis et Cie donated 73 pieces of high-end indoor/outdoor furniture and Sony donated Play Station One games that were distributed during the holidays.

On the reconstruction side, Guy Asaro, Mike Asaro, and Brian Mooney continue to monitor the progress of the demolition, as well as play a supporting role in evaluating builders. The SRCA continues to advocate "the fewer builders the better" to maximize the efficiencies, coordination, site security, and economies of scale.

It is in the community's better interest to reduce traffic, noise, and building time-to-completion. Project Phoenix will continue to garner commitments to weekly meetings with builders to discuss the previous week's activities and share upcoming activities. Builders have common goals and such meetings will be a way to problem-solve issues.

Special thanks to: Market at the Ranch; Janet, Steven, and Alicia Ilko; Ken and Andy Smetana; Mike, Ryan, Katie, and Linley Sullivan; LeTip of Clairemont; Laurie-Jeanne Lister Haynes; George Kehrer, CARe; San Diego Finest Moving Company; the Barker Law Group; Bazar Del Mundo; Ken and Sherri Smith; Amy and Joe Colbert; the Michael Brown family; the Lynch family; the Cleary family; and, Beth Smetana.

Bob Ilko, Project Phoenix

Insurance Update

The SRCA continues to work with residents to help them understand insurance policies, prepare for negotiations with insurance companies, and identify the scope of common issues such as underinsurance. In December we sent out an initial survey to residents of destroyed homes to provide perceptions about the settlement process. Information gathered may become useful in assisting all Scripps Ranch residents address underinsurance.

We also continue to set up insurance group meetings for policyholders as a convenient forum. Check the SRCA website at [] for the latest schedule of events.

Tips From Survivors

Veterans of past firestorms--Laguna Beach, Oakland, Harmony Grove, and San Luis Obispo--have helped us plan for the recovery process for Scripps Ranch. We share their vital advice.

Our veteran advisors have told us that the recovery process is more of a marathon than a sprint. Now after the holidays, pace yourself and take time to do fun things, unrelated to rebuilding.

One New Year's resolution should be to effectively use your resources:

  • IRS--Consult with a tax specialist to ensure that you do not overpay your 2002, 2003, or 2004 taxes;
  • Insurance and California Department of Insurance--They can help you understand your policy. Do not make a final settlement until you know the full cost of rebuilding;
  • Continue to take advantage of community groups, support groups, and spiritual connections. They will be especially helpful in the long run, when your energy is tested;
  • Scripps Ranch--Your neighbors' desire to help is strong; please let them know what you need.

Keep the faith!

JP Lapeyre, Meadowdale Homeowner

Shannon Huhn, Laguna Fire Survivor

Library Losses

I want to encourage displaced families and individuals to contact the library if they have not already done so. My staff and I would like to clear materials from their accounts and reissue library cards.

To date, our library has lost 203 adult and juvenile materials. In addition, the central library and other branches lost 26 items checked out to Scripps Ranch patrons. The cost for all of these San Diego Public Library losses is $3,704.61. Processing fees total $1,290, for a grand total of $4,994.61.

Nancy Assaf, Branch Librarian

One Family's Story

The SRCA Newsletter will go through the rebuilding process with one family who lost their home on La Colina Road. Darlene Bourdon, her husband Ivar Paur, their son Eric, and their Labrador, Pepper, are making their way through the rebuilding maze.

They found a rental within walking distance of their lot, which has been completely cleared, including the foundation. The only thing left is a Christmas tree they put there so they could "celebrate" the holidays at their old home. Also, the top leaves of their favorite eucalyptus tree are green and coming back. Darlene says it's as though everything is bursting up from the ashes.

Darlene tells us the last month has been marked by overwhelming kindness, as well as some frustration. We begin with the goodness people have shown. Friends, coworkers, and complete strangers have offered help, money, food, and so many other things.

One person who was especially generous is Darlene's boss. Darlene has been a nurse at Scripps Mercy for 25 years. The CEO, Tom Gammiere, also a Scripps Ranch resident, called her after the fire and allowed her to take her sick time rather than her vacation time for five weeks, so she could get things in order. That was a huge relief to her.

The family started feeling overwhelmed when so many people were giving them things. What made them feel as though they were giving back was helping a family down the street.

The insurance issue was the Christmas Grinch. Itemizing every room is time consuming. Also, the city has signed off on the lot, they have their plans, and are ready to go. However, even though their insurance policy was updated, the amount still does not match the rebuilding estimates. They asked their insurer to have another contractor come out and do another estimate. So, they are patiently working the process.

We will update Darlene, Ivar, Eric, and Pepper's progress monthly until they move into their new home!

Thank You's

In our effort to thank all those who helped the community during and after the fire, we continue to list those brought to our attention. Thank you to:

  • 7/11, Scripps Ranch;
  • Marriott Residence Inn, Scripps Ranch;
  • Mesquite Grill, Mira Mesa;
  • Stanley Middle School;
  • Encinitas Girl Scouts; and,
  • Nitin Nakrani.

If you know of a group, business, or individual who has given to our community and has not been recognized, please let us know. Just send us an email to [[email protected]].

A Sincere Thank You

We are one of the many families who lost our home in the fire on October 26. We would sincerely like to thank our friends, neighbors, acquaintances, friends of friends, and the entire community of Scripps Ranch for their compassionate support and phenomenal generosity.

We could never have gotten our lives back to "almost normal" without all the help we received. We could never express the depth of our gratitude. Thank you, Scripps Ranch.

The Phillips Family--Jeanne, Fred, Anthony, and Sophia

Telling Our Fire Stories

In the face of profound loss, we see the best of humankind. You've heard the stories; some are your own, others are those of friends or neighbors. Please share them with us.

The SRCA wants to collect the poignant, inspiring stories that came out of the recent firestorm and publish them in a book. Summarize your most compelling story in 200-300 words and email it to [[email protected]]. Please do it while the memories are still fresh. Also, if you have photos, preferably digital, that complement your story, please submit those as well. The SRCA will determine which stories to include.


County ID Cards

The county is issuing ID cards to all fire victims in order to help them easily prove their eligibility for help from both private and public agencies. Several businesses have generously offered discounts to customers who use the cards.

The county has no connection with these efforts and cannot guarantee the stores will give discounts. Some of the stores that have been generous are Ross, Mervyns, Robinsons-May, Home Depot, Harbor Freight, Nordstrom, Macy's, and some U-Haul storage buildings.

If you wish to receive one of these cards, please call Sue Spotts at 694-2136. She will need your name, address, and FEMA number.

Joe Sheffo, Legislative Aide, Supervisor Pam Slater


Erosion Control

Now that the rainy season is here, residents in some Scripps Ranch neighborhoods may be concerned about erosion, particularly after the fire. Here are some dos and don'ts for erosion control put out by the City of San Diego Engineering and Capital Projects Department.


  • Walk, drive, or ride bikes on fire-affected soils;
  • Remove trees or brush unless they represent an immediate threat to health and safety;
  • Divert runoff onto areas where it will cause flooding or damage to adjacent property; and,
  • Disturb treated areas following application of straw mulch, erosion control blankets, hydraulic practices, seed, or fiber rolls.


  • Minimize disturbance of fire-affected soils, especially slopes;
  • Follow city guidelines for installation of mitigation measures;
  • Allow vegetation, including trees and brush, to grow through the winter before pruning dead material;
  • Protect slopes by mulching with weed-free straw and/or an erosion control blanket;
  • Place fiber rolls on the contour and not on an incline;
  • Use sandbag barriers where the objective is to divert water--for example, to prevent runoff from flowing down a burned slope;
  • Place gravel bags where the objective is to filter water flow while retaining sediment and debris--for example, around storm drain inlets;
  • Inspect mitigation measures before predicted rainfall of " or greater and after storms where accumulated rainfall exceeds "; and,
  • Regularly inspect sediment control devices, including check dams, gravel bag berms and brow ditches, removing sediment when it has accumulated to half the height of the structure.

For more information about, or assistance with erosion and sediment control measures, call the City of San Diego's Engineering and Capital Projects' Field Engineering Division, Monday through Friday, 7 am-5 pm. Ask for the Post-Fire Response Team at 627-3200.


Replacing Family and Wedding Pictures

I am writing to inform your residents that may have visited my studio in the last 20 years that I still have negatives from regular studio or location sessions, including weddings. If anyone has an interest in replacing such portraits due to fire loss, contact me at 619- 260-1588 or [[email protected]]. The current name of the studio is Meredith French Photography and is located at 1620 West Lewis Street, Mission Hills. Appointments are needed.

Meredith French