Family still recovering


Two years after the Witch Creek Fire roared through Rancho Santa Fe, the residents on Zumaque are still in rebuilding mode.

Zumaque was the street hardest hit by the wildfire that arrived in the Ranch on Oct. 22, 2007. Of the 21 Covenant homes lost in the fire, six of them were on Zumaque.

Construction has started on all six lots, but Omer Ruiz’s home was the last to get going. Omer’s son David is working on the new home and is on site daily.

Their previous home — the family home where everyone would go for holidays and family gatherings — was built in 1977, said the younger Ruiz as he talked about the fire and the future.

“It’s going to be really exciting when it’s done,” said David Ruiz, hoping the family will be able to back in the house by Christmas next year.

With the new home, they are following a similar floor plan but taking the opportunity to add some modern improvements and relocating their pool to the edge of the canyon.

The gorgeous view of the canyon and hills on a sunny Tuesday this week was quite the different scene two years ago when fire roared through it at about 70 miles an hour, Ruiz said.

As the fire approached the Ranch on Oct. 22, Ruiz said he called his father around 5:30 a.m. and told him to get ready to evacuate. By 10 a.m., Omer left but wasn’t able to take much with him.

The Ruizes then had to go through what many residents did, two to three days of waiting, not knowing the fate of their home. Monitoring the television coverage, the Ruiz family watched as a news reporter stood at the top of their driveway — the home that used to be at the end of that driveway no longer existed.

“Everything burned,” Ruiz said. “I was hoping more of our stuff would’ve gotten removed but they’re just material things. My dad and the dog survived and that’s the important thing. Life goes on.”

Firefighters told Ruiz that the fire had moved up from the bottom of the canyon to Zumaque homes in just three minutes. The house next door was spared, Ruiz thinks by the redwood trees he and his father planted as seedlings in the 1970s.

They burned in 2007 but have grown back proud and full, proof that it may take some time but slowly things are returning to normal.

“This is a great place to live,” Ruiz said.