David’s grandfather, Sterling Ottesen, who happened to be visiting from Utah, was helping too.
Between chores, David fielded calls and text messages from his four older brothers scattered in Texas, Arizona, Utah and Orange County.
Amid chaos, they had a kind of order. By the time the sun went down, he and his father and grandfather were back at home, a 20-year-old, four-bedroom place on Bent Tree Court.
Then David stepped out the sliding glass door into the backyard.
"I looked up the hill and saw the flames coming down," he recalled. "I was really scared."
So was everybody else. Within minutes, his mother was sitting in the driver’s seat of the family’s Ford Expedition, ready to bolt, surrounded by crucial possessions.
David threw in most of his clothes, his iPod, some of his CDs, none of his books, and the synthesizer he plays in a band with some buddies. War Toys, they call themselves.
"I thought about some of my posters," David said. "But my dad was like, ‘Let’s take the more important stuff.’ "
David, his father and his grandfather returned to the backyard. The fence at the edge of the property erupted in flame, and the nectarine and plum trees ignited. The good news was that the Ottesen property is a full acre — the family’s tennis court and pool and fruit trees stood between the fire and the house.
The bad news — the bad news was pretty obvious.
"Our palm trees caught on fire — three big ones by our tennis court were burning," David said. He was standing on the tennis court, near the pool, working the hose while his father dealt with the generator. "These embers were flying at us, hundreds of embers, and we had to dodge them," the boy said.
His arms and legs stinging from the heat, he played the hose on the trees and embers for 10 or 15 minutes.
It wasn’t looking good. He wasn’t sure what was coming next.
Then a honk. Sirens. Flashing lights.
Three fire engines. Firefighters rushed into the yard and threw high-pressure water at the trees.
"They just went to town on every single flame that was in our backyard," David said. "We probably wouldn’t have a house if they hadn’t come."
Just like that, the situation turned. The house was going to be OK. The block too.
Within an hour or so, the firefighters had gone on to other houses, and David’s mother had ventured out of the driver’s seat. Fox News showed up and interviewed his father and grandfather.
Somebody heard that the In-N-Out Burger on Carmel Mountain Road was still open, just about the only place nearby, so the family raced there for burgers. David ordered a "triple-triple, animal-style," with fries and a drink. When they got home again, the power was still out, the house was hot and smelled of fire, and there wasn’t much to do.
David took a shower in the darkness, then went to bed. And slept for 13 hours.