Those of you who know me personally know that I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Lockheed Fire started Wednesday evening. Thursday morning at 6:12 am, there was a call informing us about a voluntary evacuation.
We were in Ashland, Oregon on our annual trek to see college buddies of mine and fabulous plays. We go every year at this time. My first trip to Ashland for the plays was in 1987. I have gone every year since then, with the exception of 1992. That’s the year that Megan was born. I was largely pregnant, and while I desperately wanted to go, my obgyn suggested that it wouldn’t be prudent. She was, of course, right. By the time the dates rolled around I was so uncomfortable that I knew that an 8 hour car ride and long plays were not anything that I wanted to try to do.
But I digress.
Thursday morning (August 13th), Mark and I got up, leaving the boys (Kyle and a friend of his) sleeping in our room and headed out to Brother’s for breakfast (Mark’s favorite breakfast spot anywhere). When we got back, Kyle was up and on his laptop.
“Mom! Do you know about the fire?”
“Uh. What fire?”
“The one that’s right near our house!”
The mandatory evacuation notification came at 11:00ish that morning. We, of course, were already gone, but the dog and cats were still there. The dog was with a neighbor down the street. She evacuated with our dog. I’m so grateful that she simply scooped Cinders up with her two dogs and left. Not that she would have left Cinders, but just knowing that I didn’t have to worry about the dog was a good thing.
The neighbor watching the cats decided not to evacuate. They hadn’t evacuated last time, partly because fire camp is set up right behind our house.
The neighbor kindly agreed to catch and corral the cats – not an easy feat!
So, we sat, from afar, watching the news like a hawk.
My biggest surprise was that I found myself getting the best information from Facebook. Dooners who chose to stay in the fire zone kept a regular stream of posts about what was happening, and links to the best sites. It was great, because I was using the hotel computer (not having a laptop myself) that was out in the middle of the lobby. I didn’t want to take up too much time, but I did want to know what was going on!
We stayed out our vacation as planned, because there wasn’t anything we could do if we headed home early, except check into a hotel. And we were already checked into a hotel, with wonderful plays to occupy our brains. Pondering a distant fire for long periods of time is simply crazy making.
We drove homeward on Saturday as planned. Knowing that we were not going to be able to go home that night other than to pick up important documents, that sort of thing. I’d made arrangements to pick up the cats and bring them down into town. That way I didn’t have to worry about having my neighbor get them quickly. Also, wanted to pick up our wedding and family photos and the “important documents” folder.
When we arrived at the road blockade we were told that it was now a hard closure because people had been using the “vacation” excuse to get back in and then stay there. They weren’t coming back out, even those who were escorted in.
Needless to say, we were not happy. I was screaming and yelling (and then stopping to apologize to the sheriff, because I knew it wasn’t his fault) and then hollering again. It felt good to move all that anger and fear through.
As it happens, we were allowed back in on Sunday afternoon. But if the house had burned and I hadn’t been able to get back up because other people broke the rules and I wasn’t willing to push hard enough to get in to get my stuff, I would have been extremely pissed.
Yes, I could have pushed harder. Showed them our suitcases and the receipt proving that we had been gone. The tears didn’t do the trick (not that I was faking any of that, I was angry and scared).
And, I’m angry that other folks couldn’t follow the rules and therefore messed it up for the rest of us. I understand those neighbors who chose to not leave. But the rule was, if you stay, you have to stay put. No coming and going. So, if you leave because you want to go to the store to get milk, well, then plan on staying off the mountain.
Personally, with the smoke and the helicopters, I didn’t want to stay here through a mandatory evacuation. It’s not like I could do anything helpful if I stayed and my house was threatened. Getting out of the way is the best way I can help.
Yes, it’s stressful to be away and not know what’s happening. Yes, it’s uncomfortable asking for help from friends. But, for me, it’s not worth it to try to stay home.
But, we’re home now. The smoke has subsided, though not completely. I’m still in evacuation mode, in that, I’m still thinking carefully about where things (including my animals and children) are and what I need to do about that.
I’m grateful for those folks who fight the fires and help keep the peace and those volunteers who support all those folks. Many, many people help with this. The fire is still burning. And the people in Swanton are still out of their houses and hoping for the best. The official report is that they hope to have the fire contained by Thursday.