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Ready or not: How prepared was Marcella Lee to evacuate in an emergency?

How prepared are San Diegans to evacuate on a moment’s notice?

SAN DIEGO — A recent report by Core Logic showed more than 75,000 homes in San Diego County are facing extreme or high fire risk.

Robin Kaufman knows time is never on your side when a fire is coming toward your home. She lost her house to the flames in 2007. Now, as president of the Rancho Bernardo Community Council, she works hard to educate her neighbors about the importance of being prepared for a fire before it happens.

“You need to have a couple hundred dollars in singles, and fives. You need food, water, and a first aid kit,” she said.

Robin also said folks need enough clothes for a week, a flashlight, and basic hygiene supplies. The council has assembled several evacuation safety tips on their website.  

How prepared are San Diegans to evacuate on a moment’s notice?

News 8’s Steve Price put Marcella Lee to the test, to show us why residents should be getting ready now. 

Steve showed up at Marcella's doorstep with flowers, but then surprised her by telling her this: "You have 5 minutes to grab all your stuff and get out, starting right now."

Marcella has done several stories on fire preparation, and after the 2007 wildfires, she went to a San Diego family's home and surprised them with this same 5-minute fire drill. 

So if anyone knows the importance of preparedness, it's her. In fairness, Marcella is in the middle of a remodeling project, so a lot of stuff isn't in its usual place. That said, we all know a fire can start at any time of year, so it's important to always be prepared.

 As Marcella raced around her home, her sole focus was finding her photo albums and grabbing picture frames off her walls. She grabbed some old family photos of her mom as a child, and the flag that was draped over her father's coffin. She forgot prescription medication, her passports, clothing for her family and dog food, realizing she's not as organized as she thought. 

"I don't know where the fire safe is, Marcella said, "I guess that's a thumbs down for me." 

Marcella bought a fire safe after the 2007 fires to store video cassette tapes of her children's first couple years of life and her family's important documents.

She said, "the only thing I care about, are my photos." 

She recalled, after Larry Himmel's home in Rancho Bernardo burned down in 2007, he told her the only thing he wished he could have saved, were the videos of his son Miles and all of his "firsts" -- his first steps, his first words, his first homerun. 

RELATED: October Wildfires in San Diego: A look back at the 2003 Cedar Fire and 2007 Witch Creek Fire

Larry told her, everything else is replaceable, but those memories are priceless. 

Marcella says her next project will be to digitize all of those video tapes, and tape an evacuation checklist to the inside of her pantry door.