A holdout and his home still standing
SAN DIEGO -- He never left. He survived. And he’d do it all again.
Mohammed Ashtari became an emblem of the decision by thousands of San Diego County residents to ignore evacuation orders when he was featured in a Times article Tuesday.
At the time, the 21-year-old Ashtari likened himself to a “captain” ready to “go down with his ship.” Authorities had issued a mandatory evacuation order for his Rancho Bernardo neighborhood -- an order Ashtari, like many others, rejected as unnecessary.
Fires raged a few blocks from his home, and police -- stationed at an intersection a stone’s throw from Ashtari’s front door to keep everyone out -- were not pleased with his decision. Nor was his mother, although she had partially financed the recent purchase of the home Ashtari stayed to protect.
On Thursday, Ashtari said he and his girlfriend, Trang Pham, 20, still hadn’t left the house. They had plenty to eat and, except for boredom, were no worse for wear. The fire, he said, never seriously threatened his home.
“Everything’s going fine,” he said. “We just stayed inside. Didn’t go out much.”
He said Thursday morning that he was stunned that authorities hadn’t reopened the neighborhood to residents.
“To say the area is still unsafe is beyond understanding,” he said. “I keep seeing people come up, trying to get back to their houses. I’d have been a lot more upset if I’d evacuated.”
Authorities reopened the area Thursday afternoon.
San Diego Police Officer Jay Odom, who had guarded Ashtari’s neighborhood, could not be reached for comment.