The "old fire" started on Saturday, October 25,
2003 and almost immediately evacuation orders were given to the
residents of the San Bernardino Mountains. Amazingly the whole
mountain was evacuated with not one traffic accident. The
evacuees went to family and friends homes across southern California
and also hotels, motels and evacuation centers surrounding the
While my mother evacuated down to my house in
Riverside, My father "Ranger Al" didn't evacuate. He decided
to stay on the mountain to keep a watch on things. His family
has been in the San Bernardino mountains since the early 1940's and
have survived their house being burned down in the past. He
served 10 years in the Forest Service in the San Bernardino
Mountains and 30-years for the Los Angeles City Fire Department.
As soon as word got out that Ranger Al stayed on
the mountain, lot's of family friends started calling him wanting to
know the status of the fire. Ranger Al found himself glued to
his phone repeating himself over and over to every caller. On
Monday, October 27, after trying to call my dad for an hour and
getting nothing but a busy signal, I came up with a plan. To
save my dad from repeating himself over and over, he could just tell
me, I would post it on a website, and then when others asked him, he
could tell them to check the website for the information.
So, that night I made a little website that had
the latest fire information on it. We launched the site
Tuesday morning and started telling our friends. Every so
often, my dad would call me with the latest information and I would
update the site. What happened then was scary.
Each person we told, told their friends and those
friends told their friends. Basically, within 36 hours of
launching the site, we had our first million server hits.
Within 48 hours, we had radio stations, newspapers and television
stations contacting us for the latest news.
I started getting a few e-mails asking about
individual homes and their status. As we would answer them,
word got out that we provided such a service and pretty soon, I was
receiving thousands of emails asking for confirmation that their
home was ok. We provided digital pictures of many homes and
unfortunately also had to provide pictures of burned homes. It
was extremely hard to have to tell someone by telephone that their
home had burned down.
For the week following the beginning of the fire,
we spent 18-20 hours a day working on informing the evacuees about
the status of the fire. Why were we so popular? The
other forms of media aimed their reports to a general audience.
They were reporting to people who lived far from the fire and thus
didn't need to know any details. Our information was aimed at
those who were directly effected by the fire. Our audience was
the tens of thousands of people who were evacuated from their homes.
On November 4, 2003 after most of the evacuation
orders had been lifted, we changed our focus of the site. We
moved from www.fireupdate.com
We felt that we now needed to focus on the Recovery effort.
Since that time, we have helped organize and sponsor many events to
help raise money for the victim's and other recovery efforts.
We will continue to be here to provide news and information for this
I'd like to thank all the many people who helped
us keep the website going. Your many
kind words helped to keep us working into the wee hours of the
was the lead reporter for FIREupdate.com website during the fires.
When the mountain had an immediate
evacuation order, Ranger Al stayed behind to keep everyone
updated. While the whole mountain was without electricity
Ranger Al watched the Network News and used his phone and internet
connection powered by generators. He spent each day wandering
the mountain keeping an eye on friends homes and reporting to FIREupdate.com on the status of the fires
and damage that was done. Ranger Al was sent on special assignments
all over the mountains to check if peoples homes were still standing.
If you have a question about a what Ranger Al
does now, you can browse these pages. If you still need help you
can email us.
Contact us at