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2003 San Diego Fire

Surviving the fire  Surviving the fire

San Diego, California, Fire: October 2003
The toll is 22 dead, 3400 homes lost and more than three quarters of a million acres of forest and brush land burned. The worst ever fires in California cost more than two billion dollars. This firestorm tore through six communities simultaneously, across a 200-mile front from northern Los Angeles to the Mexico border.

"There was no real warning. Nothing," says Randy Wasserman of Scripps Ranch. "One second we were being told the fire was no threat to us, and the next, neighbors were screaming for everybody to get out. Fire surrounded us on all sides. The only reason the house was not burning was because we had a Gerard Stone Coated Steel Roof. "We didn't have time to put shoes on our feet, to grab valuables or even photographs," recalls Wasserman. We just threw the kids and dog in the car and ran." On the Wasserman's street, Rue Riviere Verte and the adjacent Rue Finisterre, half the 52 homes are gone. Of the 26 homes still standing here, fourteen are stone coated steel.

Notes Randy Wasserman: "We had gotten three of our neighbors to replace their wood shake roofs with stone-coated steel roofs at the same time as us, which gave us all a good price. Every one of those neighbors has come by to thank us."Wasserman says he now realizes that every single wood shake roofed home in their neighborhood burned.

At 10380 Rue Finisterre, Bob Sorensen had replaced his shake roof about five years ago. That fateful Sunday, he, his wife Annette and son Matt had to wait out the fire, unable to return home. "The television news showed smoke and flame, but we couldn't see our house and had no idea whether we had something to go back to. "Frankly, I hadn't thought a lot about fire when we replaced that wood roof," says the commercial property manager. "After October 26, however, you won't find a stronger advocate of Stone Coated Metal Roofs like my Gerard Shake."

Over at the Wasserman's, Randy marvels at the miracle of a home that still stands, of a house he had re-roofed with a Gerard Stone Coated Metal Roofing System just a few weeks previously. "We were surrounded by fire on all four sides. Our gates were burning. Trees alongside the house were burning. In the back, even the grass was alight."

At the front of the Wasserman home, an American flag hangs defiantly. "It's a little torn up, but that flag flew right through the fire," says Randy Wasserman. "I'm not ready to replace it just yet."