Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Firestorm 2007 Firefighters Thank You

Returning Home
Friday, 26 October 2007

The mailbox was "tagged" yellow by the firefighters meaning we had evacuated.

"Red" meant that people were still in there home.

The sky began to look a lot better to the east. The Harris fire was still burning but we could not see the smoke.


Later Sunday it rained an unmeasurable amount for 10 seconds. This was the result. It gave us hope that things were improving.


As we neared home on Highway 94 our neighbors were praising all who came and saved our community.

Thanks to the Firestorm 2007 Volunteers

It's rare when someone comes in contact with a total stranger and feels an instant bond. Here's how it happened to us.

First, THANK YOU Kent, and all the other angels for your support and personal sacrifices!

Deinna & Lou received this email from one who volunteered.

Hello Lou,

My name is Kent Delperdang and I was one of the individuals asked to set up the donation collection and distribution site in the A3 section of the Qualcomm parking lot. I am the guy in the yellow hat in the picture on your blog.

First I want to thank you for posting this picture! I was called at 10:40 pm and asked to drive from central California to help with this project. I just threw a few things in the car and hit the road as it is a 5-6 hour drive depending on traffic and I did not bring any camera or video equipment. Your picture captures the very beginning of our efforts. (The trash truck was dead and in a bad spot - a detail I would have forgotten without your picture.)

While this week has been an exhausting and grueling experience it has also been one of the most rewarding of my life. It was a blessing to work with so many dedicated volunteers and to see the over-whelming generosity of the people of San Diego. Knowing that we were helping people be as comfortable as possible made all the hard work simply enjoyable. I hope there is never another crisis that requires this effort but I would volunteer in a heartbeat if the need arises again.

I am hoping you may have other pictures you would be willing to share with me from this part of the Qualcomm relief efforts. I plan to contact someone who should have pictures from Thursday but many of the wonderful volunteers that I worked beside on Tuesday and Wednesday were gone by then.

Again, I appreciate the picture you posted and wish you the best.


Kent Delperdang

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

San Diego Firestorm 2007

Wednesday, 9 am, October 24, 2007

This picture was taken in La Mesa looking south towards Mt. San Miguel in Rancho San Diego. Our home is located to the left side of the mountain, approx six miles from Rancho San Diego. Lou said this view reminded him of Pittsburgh PA, approximately 40 years ago, when the steel mills were in full operation.


As of this writing, the worst fire in the history of San Diego County is still raging. We voluntarily evacuated ourselves from our home in Jamul on Monday, October 22nd at 2:30 in the afternoon. The mandatory evacuation of our area came on Tuesday afternoon, the next day.

The fire actually started on Saturday morning, October 20th, close to Tecate, Mexico, on the American side – on Harris Ranch Road, or something like that. It has since been dubbed the HARRIS FIRE. The windy, dry conditions spread the fire to the west and southwest at alarming speeds.

Then, as fate would have it, another fire began near Santa Ysabel and Julian at a place called Witch Creek, renamed the WITCH FIRE. The same windy conditions moved the fire in the same direction.

Many more fires erupted in different regions of the county. Too many to remember their names. From a satellite picture, it looked like the whole county was on fire.

The wind was blowing at gale force winds, first in this direction, and then in that direction, shifting back and forth so fast no one could predict where the fires were going. It was blowing so hard, and the flames were so high, it was unsafe for aircraft to be in the air, much less in a position to successfully help put out fires.


Our saga begins: Monday, October 22

So, on Monday afternoon around two p.m., we decided to pack up our 24’ trailer with our important papers, cameras, and laptops to head out for Qualcomm Stadium, which was designated by the city as a central evacuation site. As we left our home in Jamul on Route 94, we passed Steele Canyon High School, a local designated evacuation site. The parking lot was full. On the other side of the highway is Mt. San Miguel. At the base of Mt. San Miguel, we reach the first major shopping district on this rural road. Glancing over, we noticed a lot of rv's already assembled, so we pulled in and found a place in front of the Target store. We felt safe because we never really thought the fire would get close to our house anyway. We were just taking precautionary measures, figuring we’d be back home in a day or so.

Shortly after our departure, the two roads leading back to our house, both Highway 94 and Jamul Drive, were secured and we could not return. So, we settled in to spend the night. We awoke at 3 a.m. to find the silhouette of Mt. San Miguel mountain afire, not a half a mile away. The red beacon light atop still flashing, the fire encompassed the mountain. Later, we found out that one of the tv stations has a camera mounted there and actually showed the flames approaching the tower, the lens cracking from the heat, and the picture going blank. Mt. San Miguel is the highest point in San Diego county and most tv and radio stations and cell phone repeaters are mounted there. We decided to leave for our original destination, Qualcomm stadium, at around 4 a..m. in case THIS area also had to be evacuated.


Tuesday, October 23

At 4 a.m., the traffic was light and we made it to Qualcomm in no time at all. We found a place where the busses usually park, on the east side of the stadium and settled in again. We tried to go back to sleep and eventually awoke around 9 a.m. We started to walk across the parking lot to the stadium and were approached by a couple who said they had coffee, pastries, milk, orange juice, bread, all donated from a local bakery. They took us to their pick-up truck and began piling stuff in our arms – we had to tell them to stop, please give this to families – we were just two people and didn’t need that much. They were all smiles, doing something good for their community. This was just the beginning of the good deeds going on inside the stadium.

Back in the trailer, we had some of the coffee and muffins they supplied us. After eating, again we took off for the stadium. In the parking lot, close to the trailer, donations were beginning to arrive. This is their make-shift donation center. At it's peak during the day, there were two lanes of traffic over a quarter of a mile long waiting, patiently, to deliver their donations.


As we got closer, we noticed at least four Walmart semis in the parking lot, the San Diego Blood Bank, there to receive blood donations, Farmer’s Insurance Mobile Claims Center, and vans from various television stations, one as far away as Phoenix.


The parking lot was full of cars - a lot of them had tents, or partial tents like this with cots set up next to their cars.


Those who didn't have some sort of camp trailer or RV vehicle moved inside the stadium and slept on cots in the hallways. The newspaper tells the story.


Volunteers blowing up balloons for the kids.


This section was just for the infants. The donations were divided up and put into their own section throughout the stadium. If you wanted a can of peas, you went to the canned goods section. The whole stadium looked like a giant supermarket - the only difference, everything was FREE.


General distribution center inside stadium.


Little kids had their own supervised playground.


Here we have two insurance agents from Farmer's.


Lots of thanks to whoever sent this to Cory who got it on the truck for San Diego.


The support of the volunteers at Qualcomm and the amount of donations was truly overwhelming. San Diego showed it’s heart by the response it made to us and all the others that came for shelter. To ensure order, the police were very visible, making numerous rounds in their cars throughout the parking lots, as the National Guard showed their presence by walking around inside the stadium, some fully armed.

We had many calls from Brother Knights of Columbus, both in regard to our safety and our knowledge of other Brothers who may have also been evacuated. Brother Jerry Kay and his wife Pam insisted that we impose upon them by relocating our trailer to their home in La Mesa. Since we had no water or electrical hook-ups at the stadium, we decided to accept their generous invitation and left the stadium around 6 p.m. on Tuesday night. We fully expected to be going home on Wednesday morning.

Jerry and Pam Kay's house in La Mesa.


Wednesday morning the 24th. To our shock, Jamul was now a major focus of attention

We woke up hoping the situation was going to be better and planes would all be flying, putting out the remaining hot spots around the county. However, that was not the case. Thinking the worst had past, Jamul hot spots had reignited and became a center of attention for firefighters. This time the fires were much closer to our home.

Mechanical failure on one of the fixed wing aircraft somehow grounded all the others. Fire trucks were stationed at the homes most in danger, and only helicopters were making water drops. The roads remained closed to incoming traffic, no way were we going home today, so our wait continues.


Thank you to all of you have made inquiries about us. Thanks for all your prayers, and may God bless you.


Friday, October 5, 2007

Old State Penitentiary, Rawlins WY

We were 149 miles west of Cheyenne when we came across signs saying - come, visit our historical state prison, or some such thing. As we hadn't visited any prisons yet, we just HAD to stop in the city of Rawlins.


Here are some of the more noted inmates.

Samuel Barry, Murder 2nd degree

Thomas Madden, Grand Larceny

John C. Conway, Murder 2nd degree

William Henry Wagner, Grand Larceny

Lawrence Harford, Manslaughter


Cells where permitted to be painted any color the inmates chose.


The cell blocks.

Guards cat walk across from the second level of cells.

When new cells were added, it was decided they would hold three prisoners each. For various reasons, mostly fighting, they found this didn't work. So, the cells were converted into more general use areas, such as a barber shop, below, and a library.

The Library


The white spots in this cell show how tooth paste was used as a substitute for glue to attach items to the walls.


The showers were hated. The prison opened in 1888, and there was no hot in the building until the 1960's.


One inmate was an artist and was permitted to paint the mess hall.


These are the death row cells.

Death row inmates had the dubious privilege of one man showers, even if they had no hot water or privacy.


The next two pictures show the process of execution by hanging. On the second floor, the prisoner would step in the middle of the square on the floor with the noose around his neck. His weight would activate a water valve under the floor that would slowly drain a reservoir tank. When the water was drained from the tank, the trap door would be released by the supporting post being pulled from beneath the trap door. In essence, the prisoner hung himself, relieving the executioner from that duty.

The slightly discolored grey 'box' on the floor is the trap door. On the wall are pictures of all that were executed by hanging.

This photo shows the trap door from below with the supporting post in place. The tank drains which pulls the cable to dislodge the post.


Hydrocyanic-acid gas was used for the execution when the chamber was first tested
... with a pig (not pictured).

Well, maybe!


This photo was taken from the 'exercise' yard.