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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News
Laura Warner walks the family horse at San Diego East Stake Center.

SAN DIEGO — Escaping the wildfires raging in San Diego County can be a matter of life or death. That reality weighed heavily on the mind of 29-year-old University of Utah graduate Kelly Siracusa as she sat in a traffic jam on the road out of the city of Ramona on Sunday night.

Knowing that a wind-driven fire was approaching, she started contemplating alternative ways to safety for herself and her husband, Joe, their 2-year-old son, Joey, and her horse. She was pulling the horse trailer while her husband and son were in a car behind her.

Sharing the experience while caring for her horse at an evacuation center Wednesday afternoon, she said she thought, "(If) I see flames, what will I do?" She answered herself, "I'll get on the horse with my son and ride out."

With her family safe, she was able to relate with humor her escape plan that she didn't have to employ, adding that her husband was a good athlete and could run out. A champion barrel racer, she was confident she could ride familiar trails in the area to safety.

But she didn't have to as she and her family turned out of the traffic on the main escape route and took another highway where threatening flames were closer but traffic was less heavy.

They and many other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the area made it to what they thought would be their evacuation center at the Poway California Stake center, only to be delivered a mandatory evacuation order from there early Monday morning. They and many of their friends ended up at the San Diego California East Stake Center near Qualcomm Stadium, a large community evacuation center.

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