San Marcos Fire Update

May 15, 2014

Looking Southeast from our front yard 1:15 PM 5-15-14

Looking Southeast from our front yard 1:15 PM 5-15-14

Update: 1:15 PM   While this looks ominous, it is about four or five miles to the south east of us. We are in no danger because there are lots of houses and streets including a Freeway between us and the fire but it does give you an idea of what it is like to be close to a wildfire.


Lilly Rock

Lilly Rock

Suicide Rock

Suicide Rock





Western Tanager

Western Tanager



Hooded Oriole

Hooded Oriole

Hummingbird Backyard

Hummingbird Backyard

Hummingbird Idyllwild

Hummingbird Idyllwild

It cooled down overnight and the wind stopped blowing. This morning most of the smoke had cleared and it was 25 degrees cooler than it was yesterday at this time. All is good for now, but they are forecasting record temperatures, 104, for later today. It hasn’t been that hot on this day in San Marcos since 1956 or 58 years.


The biggest difference between today and yesterday is yesterday as we sat on the patio watching the bluebirds, the hummingbirds, and the orioles; in the distance we would first see a puff, then a bellow of black smoke rise into the air.  Out of nowhere air tankers would roar in dropping fire retardant. The black smoke would then turn white and begin to dissipate. Just when you thought they had that fire under control, another puff would appear with more black smoke bellowing into the air and all was repeated. By 3 PM we had fires burning to the southwest of us, the west of us and to the north of us. That’s when we decided it was time to gas up in case we needed to leave. As Donna and I drove South on Twin Oaks Valley Road to the gas station, a small puff of smoke appeared on the mountainside just above and to the southeast of Cal State University. What we were seeing was the start of the San Marcos fire.


Within less than 5 seconds the small puff of smoke had exploded into red flames shooting 40 feet into the air creating a giant black mushroom cloud. By the time we pulled into the gas station the hot Santa Ana winds were driving the fire west at an incredible speed. The small puff we had first seen was now a raging wildfire over a quarter mile wide. We now had fires burning north, south and west of us. That was yesterday.


Today we are enjoying the bluebirds, which are mating, the hummingbirds which are fighting for territory and the orioles which just seem to be coming in for the free food and water. The only smoke we can see is to the south, the San Marcos Fire, which in the last hour has picked up with the rise in temperature. I can hear the air tankers coming in and as I look to the east a large billow of smoke is rising into the sky.


For now all is good, but the San Marcos Fire continues to burn.


On a happier note, last week Donna and I took a trip to the mountains nearby. I took my camera.  A cold front moved in and it snowed on us. Can you believe how fast that weather can change? Last week it was snowing, this week it’s blazing over 100 degrees. The cold front also brought in a flock of western tanagers. They were everywhere in the tall pine trees of Idyllwild. I only managed to get one decent picture because by the time I could point and focus my camera with a 500mm lens attached, they were gone to the next branch or tree. We also saw about a half dozen deer, tons of squirrels, but only a few mountain bluebirds.



Enjoy the photos and we will keep you posted.



Carlos and Donna Royal


68 Responses to “San Marcos Fire Update”

  1. Torri Cable Says:

    Thanks again Carlos and Donna- my sister lives in Cardiff and I appreciate updates from those of you living in the areas most affected by these fires. You’re all in my thoughts- stay safe.

  2. Katy Van Note Says:

    Thank you, Carlos, for the updates. We are so sad to see the wildfires, and so early this year! It is are in our hearts and prayers that all living creatures find safety in the fires’ wake. Proud to have been among the early Molly watchers. We have a Barred Owl and mate in our woods who have raised families. What a cacophony!!!

  3. Ginny Says:

    Thanks for the update. We are thinking of you and hope you have your car packed and are ready to leave if necessary. Your pictures are great.

  4. Thanks so very much for keeping everyone updated. So many people are thinking of you and wishing you safety and good health. How wonderful you’ve had some time to enjoy nature today, but I’m happy you’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll out of there if necessary!

  5. Dale Says:

    Thanks for the update. Glad to know you are alright for now. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you.

  6. Pat Christianson Says:

    Thank you so much for the update! Great news that you didn’t have to bail. I am so sad for the hunting grounds and beautiful habitat that are being destroyed. Grateful you still have a personal untouched paradise.

  7. Laura Says:

    Thanks for the updates! :)

  8. Donna Hultberg Says:

    Beautiful pictures!! Thanks for the update and hope all stays calm around you. Enjoy your wildlife since moving here to TX. (Round Rock) I have not had the joy with birds that I had in IL. but keep hoping that someday they will appear.
    Have a great day!!

  9. eileen curran Says:

     We are watching on FOX NEWS from New York. They are viewing almost al of Shep Smith’s show for the San Marcos Fire. MERCY!  There are tornadoes of flames. The trees are in a fire storm. Wind seems to be blowing as if a hurricane was present. The Orioles love oranges and grape jelly. You can fill the empty orange shells with jelly.   I am so sad for all the wildlife that has perished at such a vulnerable time.   Photos just showed a car port with a 60’s Camaro and a Porsche. Seems to be left behind. Fire engines are all over  the property. Homes that have been diligent on clearing their land down to just dirt seem to be saved from flames.   Be assured of my prayers for Mercies. MAY all your good works come back to you and everyone who live nearby, even the cranky neighbor.      

  10. Karen Says:

    I’m glad you are safe and the fire is abating. My daughter lives in Carlsbad and so I was keeping a close eye on the fires yesterday, as they had to evacuate. I think you should report to the police or fire dept. what you saw with the Cal State, San Marcos fire beginning and erupting at such a fast pace. i know it was at a distance, but it might be helpful in their investigation.

    • carlosroyal Says:

      I did send the photo to NBC7 and asked them to sent it to the authorities. I think the photo shows where the San Marcos fire started or really close to it. The photo was taken with my iPhone so it is time stamped and dated.

  11. Thanks Carlos for the fire update and how it affects you and Donna and your beautiful backyard and home. We are at our place in SC and when we heard about the fires the first thing we said was a prayer for all of you and “the owl box”. That’s how we think of Southern California. :) On a brighter note, please pass on our Congrats to Austin for the wonderful job he has done to graduate so quickly. I love his film clip that he shared with us, it’s always nice to have an inside tract on what goes on in film. I’m so glad I was part of his young life and watched how he progressed. You and yours have so much to be proud of. We will keep you in our prayers and hope that you stay safe. Love ya all to bits……Barb & Neil

  12. Sharon Palac Says:

    Glad all is well for you now, hope it remains that way. Things can change at the blink of an eye, as evidenced by our Yarnell, AZ fire last June. Stay safe.

  13. OhioCheryle/ OC Says:

    Carlos and Donna , thank you so much for the update,, it hasn’t been off my mind for a second. Do you remember those worry warts about the owls, I was one about this !! Please keep us up on the latest, I keep checking my email :)

  14. YTQ Says:

    Thank you for keeping your loyal fans updated! We can breathe a sigh of relief that you’re OK, and didn’t need to evacuate. I feel so bad for those who did evacuate and then came back to charred homes. Stay safe, and thanks again.

  15. Genia Potter Says:

    Oh, how I have missed your beautiful photos!
    Take care; I do hope the fires abate soonest.
    Hugs to you and Donna.

  16. Mary Says:

    Carlos, We all continue to be terribly concerned about you and Donna- along with all of your friends, family, neighbors and the vulnerable wildlife there in San Marcos. The same goes for all affected areas in southern California. The news photos are shocking as they show how intense these fires actually are. Thank goodness the military has stepped in and brought large aircraft to assist firefighters while they battle the winds, the fires, amid those scorching temperatures. It’s painful to hear about the many thousands of acres and dozens of homes destroyed. We are keeping you in our constant thoughts and prayers. Be safe.

    BTW, Your photos are stunning. Thanks for sharing and keeping us updated.

  17. Louise Says:

    Thoughts and prayers with you now. Continue to keep us informed. TV coverage is so frightening to see.

  18. Grace shaw Says:

    Will be praying fo ryou and the surrounding area. I hope you and all the birds, animals and owls will be okay. God will watch over you.

  19. Mary Ann Smith Says:

    Thank you for keeping us up to date with the fire and sending those wonderful pictures. Pray for those affected by the fire and that you stay safe. Think of Molly and Magee from time to time. It was fun and I was glad to be a part of it.

  20. Sherrie Says:

    Thank you for the update Carlos & Donna. Hopefully things will quiet down and praying for rain for you all. xoxoxo
    Sherrie ( Sher67 )

  21. Lynne Townsend Says:

    Wonderful”narration” in a frightening situation. Have been thinking of you all day. Stay safe and keep the “posts” coming. LynneMcKay

  22. Donna Says:

    Thank you for the updates. Stay safe, you’re in our prayers.

  23. revmmg44 Says:

    Carlos and Donna, I am praying for you both and for the other residents of San Marcos. I am praying that the fires will stay away from your property and that God will send some rain your way to put and end to the fires. May God Bless You – Calliopekid (Martha Gibbs)

  24. Keep safe and well….the fire looks ominous!

  25. Brenda J. Says:

    Thanks for the updates…

    • Sherry Says:

      Thanks for the update, Carlos. So glad to hear you and Donna are ok. Yesterday I found myself wondering what would happen if Molly & McGee and family were still in the owl box with the fires approaching. I remembered you used to say that there would be no interference with nature and the owls.
      And I thought if they were in there now, M&M could fly to safety, but I would be begging and beseeching you to get those little pantalooned owlets out of the box. Glad that never happened. :)

      Please continue to keep all us MODS updated on you two. We’re all keeping you close in our thoughts and hearts.

  26. Deb Lay Says:

    I am so very happy to know your safe. I’ve been so worried about you and Donna. Thanks for the update!

  27. Velvette Says:

    Thanks for your lovely nature shots, you always had a great skill at catching Molly,Magee,etc,etc,etc.

  28. Colleen (Puggz) Mill Valley Says:

    It was so good to hear you and Donna on the short video –
    I have such great memories of the OwlBox and I always loved to hear your updates.
    Stay safe and Well Done, Austin!!

  29. Pat Melcher Says:

    Thanks for the posts and pictures. Thinking of you both and praying that all be well. The pictures are amazing and scary.

    • Diane Says:

      Have been watching the TV coverage of the increasing fires around San Marcos. Praying God will keep you and your family safe from harm.. .

  30. Says:

    Stay safe.

  31. Karen Robinson Says:

    Thinking of you and glad to hear that you are safe. karen

  32. Wendy Morgan Says:

    Thoughts and prayers are with you and everyone in that area.

  33. Virgie Colby Says:

    Carlos and Donna, thanks for the update. Keep safe.
    Enjoyed your photos from your trip to the mountains. Used to see all the birds and wildlife when I lived in the mountains in No. CA. Not much of anything since landing here in the desert. Did, however have nighthawks in early May.
    You two take care and give Austin my grats, we are all proud of him.

    auntie vee

  34. Deb Says:

    So glad to hear that you are safe. On the news tonight showed how bad the fires had gotten. Praying that you and all in your area will be safe from these terrible fires.

  35. amy Says:

    Thanks for the updates. Have been thinking about you, Carlos & Donna. Glad you are OK.

  36. Thanks for the update, I have been concerned!

  37. merrie bla Says:

    Stay safe…hard to believe theses fires go so fast…. hopefully you will get some much needed rain….

  38. Nora Says:

    So sad to watch that fire burn so fast. Remembering all the hours spent watching the owls at night. Glad to know you’re okay for now. Nora

  39. Lucy Sanders Says:

    Carlos & Donna,

    I am so glad you are doing ok, have thought of you all so much and so concerned that you might have to evacuate. What a darn shame to have fires like that, so sad for all the destruction. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. I loved the pictures, you are so talented!

    Take care,
    Lucy (silent MOD, Troy, Ohio)

  40. Diane Kirkland Says:

    Stay safe!! Diane

  41. Susan Says:

    You are in my sincerest thoughts and prayers. Thank you for sharing the beautiful photographs, and please keep us posted. Susan Cordell Tennessee

    Sent from my iPad

  42. CAequuslvr Says:

    Thanks so much for letting us know what has been happening.
    The photos are just lovely — so bright and clear. Mother Nature provides us with such beauty.

  43. divomad Says:

    Wonderful report and beautiful pics thanks and stay safe you two, bush fires can move so quickly, greetings from Gwen, Melbourne Australia


  44. bonnibell Says:

    Love the updates and am so happy to know that you are ok!!! So terrible, these fires. I hope they can get it under control soon. Cannot help but think of all the poor wildlife with babes in nests….:(

  45. Stana Short-McLeod Says:

    Be safe!!!!

  46. Lisa Says:

    I will continue to pray for your safety. Thank you so much for the updates.

  47. Becky Says:

    Keeping you in my prayers for your safety!

  48. Jo-Ann Says:

    Thank you so much for the updates.. The news this morning was all about the horrible fire in San Marcus.. I was concerned about you and your family along with all the wild animals … I had never heard of San Marcus until you had me hooked on Molly and McGee.. Stay safe and get out fast if there is any concerns..

  49. Thanks for keeping us updated, Carlos. We’ve had similar “crazy” weather here in Oklahoma and have also had some really bad wild fires which, fortunately, were not too close to us. Take care and enjoy those critters. Your photos are great – thanks for sharing them!

  50. Gail Loveless Says:

    Thank you for the update. I watched on Fox New Channel yesterday afternoon (EST) all the fires rage. I kept wondering and hoping and praying that you and Donna were okay. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Stay safe.

  51. owloverbo Says:

    thanks for the updates, as I watch this unfold, you and Donna are in my thoughts and prayers. stay safe and well

  52. Jan Halstead Says:

    So thankful for your update. I prayed through out the day and into the night for all of you effected, and for safety concerning the brave ones fighting the fire. Jan in Indiana

  53. Sue Couch Says:

    Beautiful photos! Keep ’em coming. Wild weather seems to be the norm these days for many of us. Be safe!

  54. Monkie Says:

    Thank you Carlos and Donna for the update, and for posting your beautiful pictures of the wild life and birds in your back yard. I sure have missed your pictures. Be safe, prayers going out to everyone!!! Keep us posted!!! (Hugz))

  55. June Schafer Says:

    So glad to hear that you are ok. Praying that you stay that way!Your photos are always a treat.Love the hummers! Take care and keep us posted!

  56. Just saw the San Marcos fire mentioned on the news. Thanks for the update. Stay safe.

  57. joly2u Says:

    Thanks for keeping us posted, you have been in my heart. I believed for all the good you have done you’d be protected, but really hoped to hear it. Your photos are more beautiful than ever, you do have a special gift. Any owlies at the TX property?

  58. Barbara Says:

    Thanks for the update! We are flying home tomorrow night from Seattle. Our ship is at Victoria until 11:30 tonight. Be safe.

    Sent from my iPhone


  59. Susan Belloff Says:

    Thank you so much for this update. I have been thinking about you and your family every time I hear news of the fires, which is many times a day since I keep checking in with CNN. So glad you are safe…stay that way! :)

  60. Thank-you Carlos for taking the time to send us the updates on the fire. I appreciate it very much. I pray they can get it under contol real soon before it destroys anymore land. and wildlife.

  61. Thank you for your update! It has been awhile since I used to watch one of Molly’s brood hatch and grow (so enjoyed!)….but when I learned of the San Marcos fire, whom did I think of but you and Molly et al! I googled “Molly” and read the sad news about McGee but am glad to learn you are safe! Take care!

  62. Judy Sackson Says:

    Your photos are fabulous as always! So glad the fires are under control at this point. It’s very traumatic to have to be ready to evacuate…we were in that situation once. No fun!
    I look forward to your updates on nature and wildlife…maybe this summer you will take more photos…they are always so beautiful.
    We have family in Rancho Bernardo, so we have been very concerned about the fires…hope everything is under control for now…

  63. Mary Says:

    Glad I found this email….I have been offline for quite awhile due to illness. When I heard about the fires in your neighborhood I thought about you and remembered all the great times with Molly and McGee. Please do keep us updated… all feel like extended family! Best of everything to you and God Bless!

  64. This is off this topic, but I wanted to let you know that Pflugerville, Texas was listed in Money Magazine’s most recent issue as one of the best small towns in America to live in!

  65. Nita Dellinger Says:

    Carlos & Donna I enjoy reading your emails very much and love all your pictures. I’m so glad you were from the massive fires. Have a very Merry Christmas.

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