Here’s the short(ish) version of our adventure.

3:30 Wednesday afternoon. I’m heading out the door with Panda and Panda’s boyfriend to take them to get pizza and then down to their rehearsal. Out the front door this is what we see:

(Taken by Keno with his laptop.)

“That’s a hell of a burn pile.” I naively say.

“Mom, there’s no way that’s a burn pile!” replies Panda.

“Keno! Grab whatever you want to keep safe and come with us; I’m getting the dog.”

Frantic rushing around as I grab the “important documents” file and the leash for the dog and start to head for the car. Then I think to call our neighbor who says, “Yeah, it’s a fire. I’m staying here to let the firefighters know that I’ve got 20,000 gallons of water in the pool, and show them the hydrants that we have from your 5,000 gallon water tank and ours.”

Then the phone rings. It’s the neighbor three houses down.

“Nancy, there’s a fire. It started at Ice Cream grade and Martin. It’s big. Call people.”

“Okay” I say, knowing that I am not calling anyone. I am getting my things and getting out.

Then Keno says, I want to stay and “man the house”. So I head next door to talk to the next door neighbor again. He doesn’t seem worried. Says that he’ll keep an eye on Keno. I don’t normally even worry about leaving Keno at home. He’s 13 1/2. And this is a rural community. It’s safe.

And that fire, while billowy with smoke, truly looks simply like an overgrown burn pile.

So I ask the neighbor to keep an eye on Keno and head down the hill with the two other teens under my care.

As we’re driving down we see fire engines streaming up the hill. No sirens, just firetrucks racing. Also, there were quite a number of vehicles already at “four corners.” That’s the main cross roads up here in Bonny Doon.

I get to Felton to pick up the pizza that I ordered before the chaos began. As I walk around the car I see two people looking back at where I’d just come from, looking at the plume of smoke that was now much larger than what I’d left. Turns out, the fire jumped from two acres (which was about what it was at when we left, based on later reports of the progess of the fire) to fifteen acres in about two minutes. It literally exploded.

Anyway, now I’ve got two teens to get into town, and someone who I’m supposed to meet for tea and sell her tickets to my concert next week. And I’ve got my only son up on the hill with a raging fire.

I race them to rehearsal. Race to The Buttery, with the dog. It’s 90 degrees outside, so I can’t leave the dog in the car, but I also can’t go into the restaurant with her.

Luckily, Kathy has decided to sit right at the entrance, so I ask her to come outside. We quickly do the ticket/money exchange and then I head back to my car.

Now I’m starting to panic because the fire plumes are much, much bigger, and I’m farther away.

I call my husband. He doesn’t answer his work phone, so I call his cell. He answers and says that he’s on the other phone with Keno, talking him through what to pack up for us.

Keno, bless his heart, packs three sets of clothes for his father, himself and me. He declares that his sister wouldn’t want him to touch her stuff, so he declines to pack for her. Turns out he’s right. She’s glad he didn’t pack anything (specifically her bra and undies).

I get off the phone with Mark and call Keno. First he’s pretty manly and matter of fact about the whole thing. Telling me everything that’s he’s packed (including the two cats!).

Then I hear tears in his voice. He’s starting to get scared. Incredibly reasonable, considering I left him on the hill by himself. Pretty much as soon as I left the phone started to ring with people calling to check on us. So he’s taking phone call after phone call from people he doesn’t know as he’s trying to pack.

Oh yes, the electrician who was supposed to show up and install Panda’s light also shows up. He installs the light in record time and then asks Keno if he wants to go down the hill with him. Keno says, “No, my mom’s coming to get me.”

By the time I show up, Keno’s got everything packed and waiting out on the driveway. I’m still stunned that he managed to stuff two of our cats into cat carriers. He’s freaked out because he can’t find the third cat. I’m not surprised. She’s mostly feral. She was born wild on the property next to us and caught when she was 3 months old. So she got feral training from her mom. I tell Keno not to worry, that Isabelle will take care of herself. I’m worried about her, but truthfully, there is nothing we can do. She’s gone and we won’t be able to find her.

During the 15 minutes that I’m there trying to round up the last of things, the phone keeps ringing. My friend Phil calls, worried about us. I say, “I’m packing to evacuate!” He says, “Okay, getting off the phone now, just glad to know you’re currently safe!”

We’re about to get in the car when Keno says, “You have to let Jan know that you’re taking me, because he knows he’s supposed to be responsible for me!”

So I head next door. The neighbors are cozied up watching the fire on the news. They’re not worried at all. One of their sons is a local fire fighter. He’s already called to say that the fire is burning away from us and that he’s not worried.

I, on the other hand, have a son who has just valiantly pushed through his fear to pack the car. We’re leaving. I tell them that, and the wife suggests that I get the pictures. She says (rightly) that the only things that we won’t be able to replace are pictures.

Of course, the only ones I can find are the wedding photos that a friend took. Not the ones that the professional took, not the kid’s photo albums, just those. But we don’t have time. . .

I pack; we leave. This time as I’m driving down I see tons of cars coming back up. I’m realizing that if we leave we might not be allowed back up. I don’t care.

The cats are pretty quiet in the car. This is unusual. The dog is in the back with Keno.

We head down the hill and I’m thinking, thinking. Okay, where can we go? I’ve already contacted a friend who will take Keno. He’ll be with one of his best buddies. I know he’ll be happy. Oh yeah, the two things he packed other than clothes and his cat? The wii (that had just been delivered THAT MORNING) and his laptop.

I call our vet as we drive through Felton.

“Is there room for two of my cats to board? I’m evacuating from the fire in Bonny Doon.”

“Who is this again?”

I tell them.

“Oh! I’ll check. . .”

“The doctor says, bring them on in. We’ll make room.”

They’ve got one big cage left. “Can we put them in the same cage?”

Hmmmm, well they don’t really get along, but they also don’t actively beat up on each other, just hiss at dinner time. . .


Okay, so much for short(ish).

End of this portion of the story. I’ll continue tomorrow.