When star photographer Sam Hodgson and I were out surveying damage yesterday, we followed a dirt road behind 4S Ranch through some torched hills. Near an avocado grove that was burned Monday, we saw some workers sawing a plastic pipe. Sandra Broussard, a woman standing nearby, said she works for the farmer.

Several workers try to restore water to Bill Brammer’s organic farm.

She said the farm was the home farm for Be Wise Ranch, an organic ranch that’s been there since 1977 and is a supplier for Henry’s and Jimbo’s, among other local grocery stores. The avocados were torched, but the workers were trying to replace a length of the farm’s water system that was melted in hopes of reviving the strawberry crop around the corner.

“I hope this works,” Broussard told us. “We’ve got strawberries in the ground. We just need to see if they’re OK.”

The farmers, Bill and Marsanne Brammer, also grow tomatoes, zucchinis and cucumbers.

The home Brammer built, nestled in a citrus grove and overlooking the 20-acre strawberry patch, burned to the ground.

Soon Bill Brammer arrived and spoke to the workers in Spanglish as they worked to replace the pipe. They finally installed it, but we couldn’t tell yet if the system would work again. With a grim face, Brammer told me he thought the crop would last without water until today.

His employee, Broussard, who lives a few minutes away in 4S Ranch, was in disbelief.

“It’s like, you live here and you think, ‘Oh, it’ll never happen here,’” she said. “You never think that it really would.”

I asked Brammer when he and his wife evacuated.

“Probably five minutes before it burned,” he said with a grimace.

That comment hit home for Broussard.

“I was just thinking about how … I used to complain every day coming up here, driving on the gravel road,” she said through tears. “I’d take that any day now.”

On the phone this afternoon, Brammer said they got the water system running and that he thinks 80 percent of the crop will survive. But they’re still assessing damage at their other farm that was burned in San Pasqual. I asked if he thought he’d rebuild his home.

“We’re trying not to make any big decisions right now,” Brammer said. He and his wife are staying in his father-in-law’s condo.


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