Blustery Santa Ana winds spark memories of Viejas Fire

ALPINE, Calif. (KGTV) - A host of frightening memories is blowing in with the Santa Ana winds of a big, cold-weather wildfire.

Off Alpine Boulevard, the wind-driven worries serve as a reminder for Mary Fritz, who has lived in Alpine since 1977.

"I am concerned and aware," said Fritz.

January 3, 2001, around 6 a.m.

Fritz was in a 50-foot trailer next to her home when she jolted out of sleep.

"Suddenly I heard my neighbor come up and yell,'Get out and get out now!" said Fritz.

Fritz says she grabbed her purse and got out, met by a chilly, 75 mile-per-hour winds and this sight.

"Just total red.  That's all I can say, and you saw the embers coming at me," said Fritz.

It was a wall of fire bearing down on her, with only moments to escape with her neighbor.

"The flames already up on the house, but fortunately this area was clear, so I was able to get into his truck and we drove off," said Fritz.

Fritz's trailer, garage, a vehicle, and part of her home burned.

In all, nearly 100 structures were destroyed by the six-day Viejas Fire, started by a cigarette tossed along an I-8 median.

"Ever since the fire, we're very aware this could happen anytime, winter or summer," said Fritz.

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