Neighbor Warned Fire Victim to Leave

As flames closed in, a neighbor ran to Nancy Morphew's door to warn her. But Morphew didn't seem worried about getting out in time.

"She met me at the front door and said, 'I know, I know. Go help other people,'" David Wallace recalled. "She seemed like she had a plan."

After the fire tore through Sunday, Morphew was found dead in the road, her burned-out truck sitting at the bottom of a steep ditch along Yellow Brick Road (search).

Like many of the 15 people who have died in the wildfires burning across Southern California (search), Morphew -- a 51-year-old woman who took pride in running her own horse ranch -- apparently underestimated how fast the flames were moving.

"I think she got disoriented and the smoke was probably real bad," said another neighbor, Charlene Pierce. "It looks like she just drove into the canyon."

Morphew apparently was overcome by flames after climbing her way out of the ditch, according to the county Medical Examiner's Office. Her empty horse trailer was spilled about 25 yards behind the truck. Neighbors believe she tried to escape before loading the horses.

Elsewhere in Valley Center, Ashleigh Roach died Sunday after fire trapped the car she was riding in. The teenager had been trying to escape with her brother, who was rescued by firefighters.

Residents who live on her street recalled Monday how they were caught off-guard by the flames, which roared up from Hell Hole Canyon with little warning. Gary Olson, 47, had been watering down his house when the fire arrived.

"You just felt a gust of hot wind. It was one big flame. It was moving so fast you didn't have time to think," he said.

At the Roach house, a barn was on fire, sending flames across their driveway, neighbors said. Winds were licking flames across the road, forcing residents to drive through the fire.

"It was like a dragon just huffing and puffing," said Dan Contreras, a 41-year-old plumber.

Another 11 people were killed in a fire burning on the eastern edge of San Diego.

Galen Blacklidge was found Sunday on Wildcat Canyon Road on the Barona Reservation. The bodies of a male and a female were found nearby; their names had not been released, the Medical Examiner's Office said.

Authorities had few details on other deaths:

-- On Monday, the bodies of two people -- a male and a female -- were also found on Wildcat Canyon Road.

-- On Sunday, a man was found dead in a motorhome in the Moreno area.

-- Two people were found in a car, and another person was found close by in a driveway near the rural community of Moreno.

-- Two other people were taken to local hospitals, where they were pronounced dead.

"The majority of these deaths are caused by people trying to escape this fire and not following directions they are given," said Sheriff Bill Kolender. "When you are asked to leave, do it immediately. Do not wait."

In San Bernardino County, a fire was blamed for two stress-related deaths Saturday: 70-year-old James W. McDermith collapsed as he was evacuating his home; Charles Cunningham, 93, collapsed as he stood in the street watching his house burn.

"There are a lot of people who just don't want to leave their house," said San Diego County sheriff's spokesman Chris Saunders. "I don't know if they're not taking the warning seriously enough or it's an instinct some people have to protect their properties."

But many people who survived the fires said they were never warned to evacuate.

"Oh, no," said Wallace, whose wife is a fire commander in Valley Center. "We were on it before authorities were even aware of it. My wife is a fire captain, so we had a great game plan."

Wallace and his wife stood by their house, which had a wide clearance area free of brush around it. The 37-year-old stay-at-home dad said that, like a Paul Revere, he drove up and down their street on his motor bike, then his car, rousing neighbors. Morphew, however, thought she had time to spare.

"Obviously, she was trying to save her animals. And people who have animals, well, they're very dear to them," he said. "I just wanted her to be aware of the situation so that she could make her own decision on what she needed to do."

He added: "I think it's very tragic."