Home, at Last

Steve and Diane Ron lost their Rancho Bernardo home during the 2007 firestorm. County News told their story in the spring of 2008. Now, the Rons have finally moved into their new home. Steve Ron, Project Manager in the Department of Public Works, and Diane Ron, Appraiser III, in the Assessor, Recorder, County Clerk's Office, provide an update, telling their story here in their own words.

Little was left of the Rons' Rancho Bernardo property after the Witch Creek Fire burned through the neighborhood.

Two years after losing their home, the Rons have moved into their newly built house.Dorothy was right: “There’s no place like home”. It’s been two years since our house burned in the 2007 Witch Creek Fire and we’ve been on a roller coaster ever since. We recently moved into our new house and none of the disappointments and setbacks matters any more. We still don’t have furniture or landscaping, and our windows are covered by brown construction paper, but we’re “home”, and that’s all that matters. Here’s our story.

We were in Michigan at a funeral when we first heard about the fire in Ramona. We felt safe because it had a long way to go to reach our house in Rancho Bernardo, but it did. It even jumped Interstate 15, which we were sure would be a fire break. Lesson learned: build wider freeways.

Our daughter was home watching our dog and she saved his toys and food. All of our stuff burned. Lesson learned: dogs rule.

We had a videotape of our household possessions and backups of our hard drive, which were next to the computer, so they burned too. Lesson learned: save backups somewhere else, like cyberspace, where the risk of burning is much less.

Since we were so used to providing customer service to others as part of our jobs, it was very strange to be on the receiving end at the Fire Assistance Center. We learned more about erosion control than we ever wanted to. Who knew fiber roll came in so many colors?

It took a year to negotiate a settlement with our insurance company, which was about average in time. We’re convinced Steve’s DPW negotiations experience with consultants and contractors on scopes of work and change orders, and Diane’s experience with assessments helped reach the insurance settlement.

It took another year to design and build the new house. This turned out to be a “design-build” contract, which is completely different from the separate design - low bid process used at DPW. Not surprisingly, the entire house design/build process was nerve racking beyond description. Lesson learned: thank goodness Diane has a sense of color, because Steve’s choices would have been horrible.

Our first landlord kept part of our security deposit. We took her to small claims court and won. She appealed and we partially won the second trial in Superior Court. Lesson learned: watch more Judge Judy.

The fire burned our neighbor’s house and the wood fence between our lots. Without a fence we had a great view, but the neighbor built a solid wall which took the view away. He wouldn’t compromise, even though he has a view fence on the other side of his property. Lesson learned: some people are irrational.

There is one more serious lesson: check your insurance, especially Coverage A, which determines all the other coverages.  Pay for an estimate to rebuild your house and videotape everything in and on your property.

Other County workers also lost their homes in the fires, and we expect they would agree it’s very difficult to describe the stress during the last two years. Fortunately, the people we work for were most understanding, which we greatly appreciate. The encouragement from strangers and friends is a blessing for which we are truly thankful. And we’re home, which is all that matters.