Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Fire Near Our Town
We were taking our lunch break from homeschooling when T called us onto the porch. Immediately we were awestruck by the smoke pouring from a brush fire just south of our small town (pop 1200). Immediately we were tuning the radio to the news station, checking online, and taking photos. An hour and a half later, when I had to leave for my chiropractic appointment in San Diego, I was torn. Although there wasn't an immediate threat from the fire, I felt deeply uncomfortable leaving the kids at home alone while I was 35 miles from home. So all five of us climbed into my ancient Corolla, and E insisted on bringing both her rat, Ronnie, and our dachshund, Dash. In the front seat, E held the rat, inside his carrier, in her lap while T cuddled our leashed doggie in his lap in the back seat. Although we listened to Harry Potter tapes on the way down, we were much more embroiled in the large plume of smoke covering the sky in my rearview mirror.
After seeing the chiropractor, we immediately turned the car around and drove back up the mountain, the huge billows of smoke always before us. We drove on side streets to avoid traffic for a while, listening to radio reports every half hour. As we drew closer and closer to home, the smoke took up more and more of the sky in front of us. As we approached the large bridge near our town, we had to watch for news crews who were pulling off the freeway to film their reports. The enormity of the fire struck us as we watched a hillside burn just as we drove down the offramp to our town and saw a local news truck filming a live feed as we drove under the freeway and home. The fire had traveled a good way since we had left; the fire had moved east behind three mountains, and the smoke filled the sky above us.
We were glued to the local news late this afternoon and through the evening hours. At five, the Sheriff's Department contacted us via a reverse 911 call, a new thing since the 2003 Cedar Fires when many people died in the night as fire raced through their neighborhoods before the police could evacuate people. The officer's voice was recorded and told us that there was a fire in our area (duh!) and although they were not ordering any evacuations, they asked us to track the news and be prepared to leave if asked. Meanwhile, my mother called from her and my dad's vacation in Washington State, checking on us.
The kids have been nervous, even scared all day. While E insisted on taking the animals with us on our short trip down the hill, the boys had stuffed their backpacks with their favorite toys and stowed the packs in my trunk. As we left the house, she started crying, panicked, because she didn't have supplies with her for her contact lenses. The boys were unable to settle down for school before we left, going to the window to check the smoke and running into their room at the least hint of a news report. They've been through this before, too many times, really. Twice now we've packed up and left our home, not knowing if they would see their house or their possessions again. This is the third big scare we've had in the six years we've lived here. Watching people on the news from our town evacuating their animals didn't help them feel safe. Tomorrow is our first Class Day and we need to be in the city until midafternoon, and E is terrified for our animals and for our home when we leave.
Right now we're in no danger as long as the wind doesn't change direction, but if it does, our town could be in trouble again. Thankfully, no structures have been destroyed yet. 1,200+ acres have burned, one fire fighter has been injured with third-degree burns, and with almost 100 degree heat and humidity down near 20%. There's no containment so far. We don't know how it begnan, but it's in a very inaccessible area -- most of the warfare against the fire has come from the air, from tanker planes and helicopters, all the county has available. Tonight they're all grounded but they'll be back in the air by 7 AM.
We'll see how it goes tomorrow. I hope the fire will die down overnight and containment can start to happen.