The Lilac Fire burns in San Diego in this Dec. 9 image. The fire was 100 percent contained on Dec. 16, with a total of 4,100 acres burned and 157 structures destroyed. Photo: Jeff Hall/CAL FIRE
The Lilac Fire burns in San Diego in this Dec. 9 image. The fire was 100 percent contained on Dec. 16, with a total of 4,100 acres burned and 157 structures destroyed. Photo: Jeff Hall/CAL FIRE

JOAN AND PHILLIP SCHWARTZE, Bonsall

On Dec. 7 at 1:54 p.m., we received an emergency alert to evacuate our Bonsall ranch as the high winds were spreading the fire which started along I-15, faster than we knew possible. We were prepared and quickly loaded up four horses, nine (rescue) dogs, four cats and a parrot. We made two trips to a nearby evacuation point, Guajome Park in Oceanside, only to be further evacuated from there a few hours later, in the dark, as the fire raced westward.

We called Kathy Holman at Ortega Equestrian Center and she said, “Bring them.” We made two more trips up, with Kathy meeting us there each time and helping us to put frightened horses and our two big, scared dogs into stalls. Our little dogs, cats and the parrot were placed in a horse trailer.

At 11.30 p.m., we showed up at our former neighbors’ Dean and Sharon Pollinger, who opened their hearts and their home to us for four days. In their lovely guest room, we viewed on our iPhone the San Diego television crew filming the firemen fighting what was now being called the Lilac Fire on our very street at 2 a.m., just before the coverage ended for the night. At that point, we were pretty sure we were about to lose our home.

Early Friday morning, we went first to the stables to check on the animals and then relocated the nine dogs and four cats to Zuri Pet Spa, where owner Jen Harris and her wonderful staff welcomed our 13 pets, despite no advance warning. We bought a canary cage at Petco and the parrot took up residence with us at the Pollinger’s.

While at the stables, we received a call from John Humphreys at Ramos House Cafe, inviting us to come over for lunch which, he insisted, was on him.

Our horse tack box was left at home, so I went to American Horse Products, where they helped me find some much needed horse supplies, and where Julie generously donated a pair of rubber boots to use so I could clean up our horses.

We took our residential hosts to dinner at L’Hirondelle, where owner Ali Golesorkhi quietly said to Phillip, “I do not have much, but whatever you need is yours.”

On Saturday morning, we received word that our home was still standing, although many of our neighbors lost everything.

At this writing, our dogs/cats/parrot are home at the ranch with us, and we hope to transport the horses tomorrow. Our property was completely unharmed by the fire.

We cannot thank the wonderful people of San Juan Capistrano enough for their kindness, generosity and friendship during this terrible, trying time. San Juan is a great city filled with great people. We know that firsthand. And we are here for you, should you ever need help.

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