May 20, 2014


It’s a real estate cliché: location, location, location. When Bardon and his wife, Rhonda Hyatt, were house hunting in 2010, agents touted the fact that the new places lining Cinnabar Way were surrounded by a natural preserve.

“NO ONE,” an online ad promised, “WILL EVER LIVE BEHIND YOU.”

For this couple, though, acres of chaparral and eucalyptus weren’t comforting. Former Fallbrook residents, they had lived through several wildfires. When Bardon had difficulty obtaining fire insurance for the new house, he took matters into his own experienced hands.

“I’m a depend-on-yourself kind of guy,” he said.

On a website, he ordered $1,000 of firefighting equipment — $400 for four lengths of hose, each rated at 150 pounds per square inch; $250 for the nozzle; $50 for an adapter; $300 on fire-retardants and other items. He stored the gear in one of the tool cabinets lining his tidy garage. . . .

As fires hop-scotched the county last week, thousands of residents faced an agonizing choice. Did they evacuate their imperiled homes and businesses, or stay and fight? On Cinnabar Way, several chose the latter course. These civilian defenders stressed that they always obeyed authorities’ orders, and praised the professionals who — attacking by land and air — routed a wall of flame and saved their block.

But these amateurs helped.

“It was a joint effort,” said Elliot Merhar, who lives next door to Bardon.

Still, wasn’t he surprised to see his neighbor running to a hydrant, lugging his own fire hose?

“No,” Merhar said. “I know him.”

Well, it worked.