By Don Teague, NBC News correspondent
I know wildfires happen in Southern California. I grew up here, went to college here, and worked several years as a TV reporter here. So, why is it so hard for me to believe my eyes when I see fire sweeping across this beautiful, rugged landscape at night?
I spent most of last night in Ramona, just a couple of miles from the house I used to live. During the Cedar fire four years ago, flames came to the very street my house sat on, and some close friends lost the dream home they had just finished building to the roaring flames.
When I saw these fires break out on Sunday, I asked the network to send me. My job isn't to man the fire lines, or help evacuate neighborhoods…it's to tell the stories of those who do and to inform the public. But for me, it's more than that. My wife and children have close friends here. I have friends here. I love this place.
So it's at once heartbreaking, and awe inspiring to see a fire line roar up the side of a mountain slope, or race through bone dry brush. And when you've worked enough fires like this, you learn to spot the sign of a home erupting in flames beyond the next ridge line. A surge of black smoke billowing into the sky, the smell of nylon and household chemicals burning, another dream home…however humble or magnificent…lost.
This fire will eventually go out. The thousands who've lost their homes and businesses will rebuild and move on. But the memory of a fire like this lasts forever.