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"The Old Fire" -- Cheers and Jeers from Two Survivors

Ernest and Elinore Partridge

L. R. Carter, San Bernardino Sun

Lenny Ignatzi / AP

We are grateful beyond words to the heroic firefighters. They performed a miracle on our mountain. It was generally agreed, by residents and experts alike, that once a fire crossed the south ridge of the San Bernardino mountains and got into the half-dead forest, it would be impossible to stop short of the high desert to the north. And yet, the fire did get into the forest, and still they stopped it. They did so, undermanned and ill-equipped, thanks to decades of tax cuts demanded by the right wing and thoughtlessly approved of by the California voters.

Our special recognition and thanks goes out to Michael Peel of the Rialto Fire Department. Until about two months ago, Mike was our next door neighbor. Two days into the fire, our neighborhood was declared "inaccessible" -- in effect, a sacrifice area. Mike would hear none of it -- "these are my friends," he insisted. And so Mike and his determined crew stopped the fire within 100 yards of our homes -- at the very boundary of our property. They had only one route of escape, and had the wind shifted, they would have had to abandon the area to the fire. It was a very close call.

The fire map of our area shows an unburned oval, eight miles east to west and three miles north to south, 70% surrounded by burn area (largely uninhabited). In that oval, extending from Cedarpines Park to the west and Lake Arrowhead to the east, are the homes of tens of thousands of mountain residents. That oval is the footprint of a miracle.

The coverage of the fire by the local TV stations was dreadful and irresponsible. "Dreadful" in the sense that it evoked groundless dread in thousands of mountain residents, including Yours Truly. 

Where hundreds of professional TV reporters with budgets in the multi-millions had failed, a retired ranger and his son succeeded. On their own time and with no financial assistance, "Ranger Al" (Neil Alvin and Dacy Nottingham) set up a website which gave the residents a steady stream of the sort of urgent information that the TV stations deemed unworthy of their attention. It was Ranger Al, and the community website, www.rimoftheworld.net, that gave us the welcome news that our house had been spared.

The Partridges


Lee Gruenfeld

Mike Bates

"At last, it's over!"  (Silverwood Lake)

For still more images, see Crest Forest Fire District and rimoftheworld.net.  


Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances