Burned in their minds

Barbara Diamond

The 1993 Fire Storm was a defining moment for many Laguna Beach

residents. They date events B.F. and A.F., before and after the fire.

Others would just as soon forget the whole thing.


“You can’t dwell on the past,” said Martha Lydick, who lost her


Lydick took only her jewelry, her cat, Damon, and her Shelby Cobra

when she and her late husband, Lawrence Lydick, left their Mystic


Hills home that October day in 1993. “Unless there is a brush fire in

the canyon.”

However, memories can be buried only so deep.

“You go to look for something or talk about something and say to

yourself, “Oh yeah, I used to have that,” Lydick said.

She rebuilt her home. It is surrounded by mostly new or remodeled

homes. Her neighborhood was one of the hardest-hit by the fire.

Ron Rodecker, Sawdust Festival exhibitor and originator of PBS’s


Dragon Tales, evacuated when the fire came within a half-block of the

Top of the World home he shares with his wife, Katherine, their two

dogs and two cats.

“We took our computer and some reproductions of my work, but the

main thing was us and the pets,” Rodecker said. “The rest is just


The Rodeckers took separate cars and headed down Temple Hills



“It was packed,” he said. “We only got about a half a mile in an

hour when the police came and told us to get out of our cars and walk

out; the fire was on its way up.”

The Rodeckers turned their cars around and headed for the fire

road. She went on to Irvine; he stayed in town at a friend’s house to

keep tabs on their home.

“I went up there at about 10 p.m., that night,” Rodecker said.

“Everything was so disorganized they let me through. But my home was


“There are so many stories,” he said. “One family packed

everything into one car and then locked themselves out. They had to

take another car. The packed car burned, their house didn’t.”

Laguna Beach firefighter Carl Klass was fighting the fire in

Emerald Bay when the garage to his Laguna Canyon home burned down.

City Manager Ken Frank worked throughout the devastating day, that

night and the next day. Many folks didn’t realize he lost his home.

Then City Councilman Bob Gentry lost his home and a rental property.

He wore borrowed clothes for the next week.

Ann and Charlie Quilter’s Laguna Canyon home survived the fire,

but was destroyed in the 1998 landslide.

She was Downtown when the fire broke out. He was at the El Toro

Marine Air Base, playing golf for the first time in about a decade.

He walked back home from the point where vehicular traffic was


“We met again three days later,” she said. “We communicated

through my father in Florida, because there were no local lines.”

Quilter picked up the couple’s two children, Emily and C. J., from

school and they ended up at a friend’s home in Three Arch Bay.

Artist Iris Adam also stayed here, but not by choice.

“When they put out the evacuation call, the electricity went off

and I couldn’t get my garage door open,” Adam said. “A neighbor tried

to open it, but he couldn’t either. So I took my cat Daisy and my

stuff from the car back into the house. Then I went back and forth

from one side of the house to the other to see how close the fire was


Although Adam has trouble walking, she set an arbitrary fire sight

line as a signal to take to her heels. She didn’t have to.

Adam said she was scared to death, but neither her home nor the

Art-A-Fair Grounds, which she owns, burned.

Despite the disheartening loss of property, there was no loss of

life that Oct. 27. And the town came together in an astonishing

display of community. The fire broke out on a Wednesday. By Friday

donations of clothing and household goods overflowed the Laguna

Presbyterian Church, and still more came in.

The Fire Relief Coalition was created to process the donations and

assist property owners who lost all possessions. The Resource Center

is a lasting legacy of the fire.

“When you think about what happened, it has to be one of, if not

the major event in Laguna,” former Mayor Neil Fitzpatrick said. “It

impacted so many people in so many ways. The only comparable event

would be the Bluebird Canyon slide, where people lost not only their

homes, but their land.”