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Firefighters battle a house fire at the Rancho Monserate Country Club trailer park near Fallbrook on Dec. 7. Photo by Jeff Hall/Cal Fire
Community Vista

Council applauds official, community response to Lilac Fire

VISTA — Toward the end of the Dec. 12 Vista City Council Meeting, city officials talked about the Lilac fire, which blackened the Bonsall and Fallbrook areas. According to City Manager Patrick Johnson, more than 1,600 personnel from the county, state and outside California helped battle the blaze triggered by the fierce Santa Ana winds.

Johnson said the northern parts of Vista were under mandatory evacuations.

“We did the best job as we could to get the word out to communicate with residents, especially via social media, and let them know what was happening and where to go,” Johnson said.

Johnson also extended thanks to the firefighters, fire chief, command staff, emergency operation center and law enforcement.

“So, thanks to everybody,” he said. “We’re very grateful that it didn’t come into the borders of Vista, but we are also sad at the same time for everybody in Bonsall who was affected.”

Councilman Joe Green, also a realtor, shared how the Lilac fire personally touched his family member — his wife’s aunt lost her home which he sold her less than two months prior.

All the belongings were in the new home.

“Now, they have had to move back into their old home with none of their possessions that they’ve previously had,” Green said. “This fire really put things in perspective I think for the community, and even for the people who were evacuated — just thinking about what’s important — and when it comes down to what’s important. I think that this was a reality check for all of Vista and I think we all came together as a family.”

Green thanked the firefighters and first responders for doing a great job. Green also commended Communications Officer Andrea McCullough for providing such a strong social media presence for Vista residents.

“You made us look so fantastic,” Green said. “The citizens knew what was going on, and you did a great job.”

Mayor Judy Ritter said she was in Tokyo during the Lilac fire and it was difficult to be so far away from home. She was saddened by the loss of homes as well the death of so many horses.

“I kept waking up in the middle of the night and checking on things,” said Ritter, adding that she also used the Next Door app. “It was very scary.”

Ritter thanked McCullough for keeping residents up to date. 

“I want to also thank the first responders and tell them how much I appreciate them and all of the work that they did to control that fire,” Ritter said.

Deputy Mayor Joe Aguilera shared he was one of the evacuees of the Lilac fire. He thanked the fire department for keeping his home safe.

“It’s kind of scary and not a pleasant experience evacuating,” he said. “Thank you to Andrea (McCullough) because I think she made the city look very good. I think all of the staff should be thanked because I’ve got a lot of people out in the community that were thanking me because we kept them informed.”

Councilwoman Amanda Rigby shared that she knew of people who were evacuated as well as some people who lost their horses to the Lilac fire.

Rigby then thanked everyone in the city who did such a stellar job.

Councilman John Franklin said he echoed the same sentiments regarding the first responders and staff, particularly those who worked throughout the nights. Franklin thanked everyone for their hard work and gave special gratitude to the firefighters who immediately rushed to the fire and were in harm’s way.

“You were part of the effort to contain the fire,” Franklin said. “We appreciate your bravery and sacrifice.”