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The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 44, October 28, 2007, Article 2

UPDATE: NUMISMATISTS AND THE CALIFORNIA FIRES

On Wednesday I published a special issue of The E-Sylum 
reporting on how some of our California numismatic brethren 
were faring in the face of the massive wildfires in that 
state. David Sklow, David Fanning, Len Augsburger, Bob 
Leuver and several others wrote to thank me for the 
information about our friends George Kolbe, Alan Weinberg 
and Ron Guth.

Doug Andrews writes: "Not only is the news good for our 
friends and colleagues, but this special issue of The E-Sylum 
is numismatic newsgroup reportage at its finest! We hope you, 
and the California firefighters, keep up the good work."

Kerry Rodgers of Auckland, New Zealand writes: "Bush fires 
have had profound affect on numismatics in Australia with 
several major collections destroyed over the years. The 
infamous Ash Wednesday fires took out many rarities in just 
one collection in Victoria."

Anne Bentley writes: "My nephew drives an 18-wheel semi-rig 
and called from the fire area to say the winds are literally 
pushing these monster trucks over. This must be what Hell 
looks like. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone out 
there."

Indeed. Earlier in the week a USA Today article quoted San 
Diego firefighter Mitch Mendler describing what he witnessed: 
"It was nuclear winter. It was like Armageddon. It looked 
like the end of the world." 

Ken Berger of San Diego writes: "The areas hardest hit are 
more to the east and northeast of the city in the more rural 
& suburban areas. The fires are starting to lessen up, 
although a number are still burning. Twelve hundred homes 
were lost in San Diego County. 

"You can smell the smoke in the air. Because of the poor air 
quality, all the schools, colleges and courts are closed. In 
Clairemont (east of Pacific Beach), the air quality has not 
been as bad as it was four years ago during the Cedar Fire. 
At that time, huge pieces of ash were descending from the 
sky. This time it has only been small pieces. Six miles 
north of here in University City (a neighborhood in San Diego 
City), the air has been much worse. There are also fires 
southeast of San Diego City.

"As one gets closer to the ocean, there are more homes and 
less vegetation, so in my opinion the fire danger is less. 
However, we do have some canyons -- such as Tecolote Canyon 
-- which has not been cleared in over ten years and is a 
major fire hazard."

John Ingle of Early American History Auctions writes: 
"All is well in our Rancho Santa Fe offices. We were 
under a Mandatory Evacuation for two days. However, 
we are back up and running now. Our November 10th Mail 
Bid Auction of Autographs - Coins - Currency - Americana 
will run as scheduled."

Gar Travis of Teletrade writes: "My residence and office 
are very close together - where the 55 and 405 highways 
cross. Our offices are very near those of PCGS."

Leon Worden writes: "Here in Santa Clarita (home of the 
Magic Mountain amusement park), the Santa Ana winds have 
finally died down from their 70-100 mph velocities of a 
few days ago, and as I look out the window all I see now 
is a little puff of smoke over Castaic, in the northwestern 
Santa Clarita Valley, where my neighbor and fellow 
E-Sylum reader Oded Paz was evacuated the other day.

"Oded is Vice President of The Elongated Collectors (TEC) 
and was the first-place winner in the Elongated category 
for his display at the Milwaukee ANA). Oded reports that 
he has returned home and his family is safe. We lost 25 
homes in our community, about a mile away from me, as the 
flames attacked our northernmost residential neighborhoods. 
But Governor Schwarzenegger was here yesterday and President 
Bush should be here tomorrow, so I guess we'll be OK. ;-) "

(Thursday) Ron Guth, President of Professional Coin Grading 
Service writes: "PCGS suffered no disruption of service 
due to the fires here in Southern California. Except for 
eerily overcast skies and diminished air quality, it’s 
business as usual here at our headquarters in Orange County.

"This morning, I was able to make the drive from my home in 
San Diego to PCGS Central, which is an 85 mile trip along 
the coast. The air quality ranged from clear and smoke-free 
in some areas to choking smoke through Camp Pendleton (where 
a fire could be seen burning the tops of the mountains off 
in the distance). Much of the acreage in Camp Pendleton has 
been blackened, some of it right up to the edge of Highway 5, 
off into the distance, and even under the transmission lines 
leading out of the San Onofre nuclear reactor. The winds 
have died down and the fires have either remained stationary 
or taken off towards the east, sometimes back over areas that 
were missed when the fire was on its westward march.

"Among our staff, there are many stories being told. A 
consultant who lived in Rancho Bernardo (in San Diego) tells 
how his house is the only one of the nine in his neighborhood 
that remains standing…the rest were burnt to the ground. 
One of our IT guys went to bed one night when the fire was 
10-15 miles away, thinking he was safe, only to be awakened 
at 4 a.m. with the flames right at his back door. He recounted 
how the winds blew the flames up and over his house, such that 
they were licking the vegetation in the front yard. In the 
next second, the flames disappeared completely, leaving his 
house intact. 

"Others tell of intense red glows in the sky from the next 
hill over, waiting in fear for the flames to appear. Others 
were forced to evacuate and they have been unable to return 
because of issues with downed power lines, leaking gas lines, 
etc. Another one of our consultants told about fighting off 
flames in his back yard with a garden hose, only to have a 
Marine helicopter fly overhead and dump a load of water on 
the fire, extinguishing it completely."

"In short, everyone has been affected by the fires in some 
form or fashion either directly or indirectly. The fires 
have been a major disruption in many of our lives. Fortunately, 
everyone on our staff is safe and the overall morale is excellent. 
We’re not going to let a little fire get in our way."

(Saturday) Ken Berger writes: "Life in San Diego County is 
slowly returning to normal. Many evacuees are returning - 
some to their homes and some to nothing. A few fires are 
still burning and are still being fought. The pictures in 
the newspapers say it all. For example, there's an aerial 
view of two cul-de-sacs next to each other. In one, all 
the houses except one burned to the ground; in the other, 
all the houses except one were untouched by the fire (the 
other house burned to the ground).

The remaining evacuees at the stadium have been relocated 
to the Del Mar Fairgrounds. I believe there were seven 
deaths directly related to the fires."

NUMISMATISTS AND THE CALIFORNIA FIRES
esylum_v10n43a02.html

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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