Community remembers the Cedar Fire 10 years later at Lakeside memorial

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“It started as a simple flame in the rugged, rural back country,” he said. “The perfect alignment of extreme weather, fire weather, surface conditions quickly catapulted that flame into an enormously powerful and unstoppable force,” said Lakeside Fire Capt. Chuck Palmore.

He was speaking about the 2003 Cedar fire that killed 15 people, burned more than 270,000 acres and destroyed 2,200 homes.

“It started as a simple flame in the rugged, rural back country,” he said. “The perfect alignment of extreme weather, fire weather, surface conditions quickly catapulted that flame into an enormously powerful and unstoppable force,” said Lakeside Fire Capt. Chuck Palmore.

He was speaking about the 2003 Cedar fire that killed 15 people, burned more than 270,000 acres and destroyed 2,200 homes.

A day of remembrance, held on Saturday, Oct. 26 at the River Park Fire Station #2 in Lakeside, honored first responders, celebrated survivors and remembered those who died.

Starting the ceremony, the color guard, composed of firefighters, members of the VFW Post 5867 and Cub Scout Troop 246, with Cub Scout William Butz leading the more than 100 people in the Pledge of Allegiance. A flyover of World War II aircraft immediately followed this from Aircraft Group One.

Dianne Jacob, County of San Diego supervisor said the lessons of the Cedar Fire learned is that what starts in the backcountry is not safe for the citizens of East County.

“What started in our back country in 2003, for the first time in history of San Diego County it went into the cities,” she said. “That moment in time was significant to making major changes.”

She said two major problems discovered were problems in communications and lack of resources. “We’ve changed that,” she said.

Jacob said the new fire stations, better communications, the 911 reverse calling for emergencies were just a few of the implementations that came out of the ashes of the Cedar Fire and that the county and all of its supporters are better prepared to handle such a catastrophe.

With several exhibits, and food provided by the Lakeside Optimists, the ceremony also included guest speakers Fire Chief Andy Parr, one of the first responders to San Diego County’s worst wildfire in history, David Kassel of the Cedar Fire Rebuilding Resource Group and a book signing from author Sandra Younger, who wrote about losing and rebuilding her own home lost in the blaze in her book “The Fire Outside My Window.”

Assemblymember Brian Jones spoke about his personal experiences in seeing the fire first hand and presented Parr and first responders with a declaration signed by Senator Joel Anderson and himself.

The people of Lakeside had little to no warning as the fire as the fire moved in and killed 12 people living in Wildcat Canyon and Muth Valley and destroyed 39 homes on the Barona Indian Reservation. It then spread into Alpine, Harbison Canyon and Crest. The fire, which started on Oct. 25, 2003 burned more than 280,000 acres and did not attain full containment until Nov. 3.

After a demonstration fly over of a San Diego County Sheriff N449RC aerial reinforcement helicopter dropping water, a short ribbon cutting ceremony was held in the empty plot designated for the Cedar Fire Memorial that is expected to be completed and viewable to the public within a year.