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At the shelters, some evacuees had a memory to compare the day to.

At 5 a.m. Monday, when Mary Schick saw the announcement on television that her neighborhood in Rancho Peñasquitos fit into the large rectangle of evacuation, she went to wake up some of her neighbors. Schick chatted with me from a chair outside a restroom at Qualcomm yesterday, her cell phone plugged into a nearby outlet to charge.

During the Cedar Fire four years ago, Schick woke up that Sunday to a neighborhood full of smoke and ash. As she and her neighbors cleaned up the neighborhood in the ensuing weeks, they also heard from friends whose homes had burned.

“People are being a little smarter this time,” she said, referring to how quickly her neighborhood emptied. “I learned from the Cedar Fire to put all of my documents in a fireproof box. It got very emotional when I was deciding which pictures to take.”

KELLY BENNETT

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