Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Into The Fire

Well it looks like my blogging is going to be spotty at best for the next few days, at least. Yesterday morning before dawn I was evacuated from my house because of an encroaching fire. I woke up at 4am to a heavy smell of smoke. When I turned on the tv they were mentioning that the area a few miles away had just been hit by the fire. Husband started packing our clothes while I sat there in denial saying that they hadn't called for evacuation yet, so we were probably fine. Husband then opened the shutters to our bedroom window. It looked like sunrise, even though dawn was still about an hour away. When I looked closer I saw very tall flames just a few miles away from our house headed right towards us. Husband then reiterated "it's time to go", and I jumped up to help him pack.

A few minutes later we got a reverse 911 recording that told us to evacuate, and to head to a high school that was a few minutes away. When I looked out the window again I saw a storm of burning embers raining over my house. Husband and I stuffed all our luggage in our car, I grabbed food and water, and we were outta there.

When we opened our garage door we saw the hill 50 feet from our house up in flames (courtesy of those burning embers). I was almost frozen in panic the flames were so close. We didn't see anyone else on our street (they had probably already left, but we weren't sure) so Husband laid on the horn as we left, just in case anyone was sleeping through it. Everyone in our neighborhood was leaving at the same time, so there was a huge traffic jam to get out of the area. We were stuck in a parking lot with flames coming down the the hill behind us. I tried calling 911 to let them know about the fire that had just started in our area, but I couldn't get through. As we finally got out, I saw fire trucks coming in. On the freeway there was a fire on either side of it. It was frightening, but I was glad we were safe and out of there.

From the point when I saw the flames until about 2 hours later I was constantly on the phone with people I knew in the area. I woke up several people, told them to pack their things, and get out of their house as soon as they got the call to evacuate, if not sooner. Luckily, they all live south of me, so they had more time to pack and they never saw flames.

Husband and I were at our evacuation center, which was a high school, for a few hours until they evacuated it as well. We then headed to a friend's house towards the coast, which is where we are now. They graciously took us in and said we could stay as long as we needed. Offers of a place to stay have since poured in from friends, family of friends, and friends of family. It's heartening to know that so many people are willing to take us in, and that we won't have to stay at a shelter.

Right now I don't know if my house is still there. I know that the fire has been burning houses all over the area, but they haven't mentioned my neighborhood. I'm hoping no news is good news. But the fire is still going with no containment. I'm just glad that so far this fire has had very low numbers of fatalities and injuries, and I'm very impressed with my city for evacuating areas early to avoid endangerment to people. Their response time has been impressive considered how understaffed and overworked they are.

I'll give updates as I get them, but the media is not planning to announce which homes are gone until tomorrow. In fact, our information from the media is now in jeopardy because relay towers are in the path of the fire, some have already burned, and areas all over the city have been losing power.

Cross your fingers for my city and for my home. In hindsight, I'm very glad I don't have my puppy yet. That would have been an added level of complexity I'm glad to avoid.


Lynn said...

Ohmygoodness, I'm glad you're safe! I was down in San Diego a few years ago when a fire swept through, and that was scary, but this seems much much worse than that time. Stay safe!

Jenna Z said...

Oh my gosh, that is the scariest thing I've ever heard. I'm am so glad you're safe and have multiple offers for safe places to stay.

Anonymous said...

very cute and adorable

Sam Tsang said...

hey we're praying for you! let us know if y'all need help!

JuLo said...

Yeah, this is now my third fire I've been through, and my second evacuation. That's California for you; fires and earthquakes is just what we get. I still prefer them to hurricanes and tornadoes! :p

The fire is finally starting to die down...knock on wood. They're saying I may get to go home tomorrow. My house is not on the list of houses that have been destroyed. Hopefully there's no damage!

Thanks to everyone for your well wishes. I don't need anything. My friends I'm imposing on have been very accommodating. I'm definitely buying them a gift card for a grocery store after eating them out of house and home!

I'm just glad this fire, while devastating to property, has caused very little loss of life. I attribute that to my city for a quick, cautious response, and the people of the city who actually evacuated. With any fire, there's always people who refuse to evacuate. Those are the people that die. Thankfully we didn't have many idiots this time, and most people left during voluntary evacuations. People: if you ever get called for a voluntary evacuation, leave. If you're in denial and get called for a mandatory evacuation, leave. Our firefighters were able to actually fight the fires because they weren't distracted with arguing with people to leave their houses. It's so important. I can say first hand that it really made a huge difference this time around.

JuLo said...

I'm also thankful that the main shelters around my city were very understanding of people with animals. There were shelters set up to take in animals, specifically. I think it really made a difference with getting people to actually go to the shelters.

Sam Tsang said...

Hey Julo, what's the update? hope everything is ok!

JuLo said...

Thanks for asking. :) I'll post an update later today hopefully, but the short version is that we've seen our house. It's fine for the most part, but we still can't stay in it, so we're still refugees!