LAKESIDE, Calif. - Ten years after the Cedar Fire ripped through San Diego County, dozens gathered in Lakeside on Saturday to remember the 15 people killed in the fire and to pay tribute to the first responders and volunteers who helped save lives.
"We loaded up everything and got out as quick as we could and by the time we hit Moreno, our house was gone," said Betty Frizzell.
The massive fire burned nearly 3,000 homes, including Frizzell's and Mark Beeson's Lakeside ranch. Photos show the damage to their daughter's house and another family property. They also lost their home in Descanso.
At Saturday's ceremony, Frizzell stumbled upon a framed photo and poem at a vendor's booth. To her surprise, the house in the photo belonged to her family.
As those in attendance paused to pray and remember, they also recognized how the community has grown. The county has made some $285 million in fire safety improvements to help keep residents safe.
"Fifty-four fire stations that are now staffed 24/7, which were previously volunteer and then better communications, notifications," said San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents District 2.
On the anniversary, county and city leaders held a ribbon cutting, marking the site of a future monument as another visual reminder and tribute.
Of the many lessons learned, Frizzell and Beeson say having a fire safety preparedness plan ahead of time is key.
"We know now that you don't have the time to run around the house trying to gather all your important papers that you're going to need so everything like that is together in one spot," said Frizzell.
The Lakeside Fire Department was also recognized for their efforts in fighting the blaze.