1:45 p.m. Monday, July 15, a Mountain Center fire report to San Bernardino National Forest dispatch came over the scanner. I remember the description as rapidly moving.
On deadline for the July 18 paper, I walked into J.P.’s office and relayed what I had just heard. Strapped to our computers typing like mad, neither of us thought we should leave. Firefighters would have it out soon. But the inconsiderate and hostile fire disrespected deadlines. Within the hour it became a serious threat and J.P. abandoned his desk to cover it.
From then until even now, mine, Jack and J.P.’s lives are so blurred we forget what day it is.
After the staff evacuated Wednesday night, only J.P. stayed behind to cover the fire. Jack and I live outside the evacuation areas so we were able to get through the road closures each morning like other media. We kept the office open. Jack and I took turns answering phones and calming fears.
The town was near empty so mostly visitors and locals called. Walk-in total sales were $7.50 Friday and $.75 Saturday.
From then until even today, J.P. paused writing only to cover early morning and nightly press conferences to post updates online. He hopes he never has to write the two words Mountain Fire again.
Jenny lived in her fire clothes taking awesome photos. I kept pace posting updates as well as editing as much as possible through the ever-changing situation and incorrect information circulating. Most of that came from online sources so we talked a lot to fire and law enforcement personnel.
Facebook became a full-time job as “friends” seemed to grow as rapidly as the fire. I failed to read every comment. We couldn’t possibly realize what impact the posts had.
In the midst of it all, we still have a paper to get out and yet, since Sunday when the gates were raised, I have hugged and cried with more people about what our breaking news meant to them. We are still here.
Becky Clark, Editor