Anyway, as we approached the area where earlier I had been turned back, there was no longer any police cars blocking entry to my neighborhood. Everything seemed to be fine. There was a command post set up at one of the ranches with a fire truck and local hospital mobile clinic, and some water trucks and pickups. The local news people were all set up filming the 500 acres of burnt land that used to be part of a huge lake, but now resembles more of a very big puddle. I don’t know how far the fire would have traveled if there had been water there instead of grass.
Earlier, when I knew I couldn’t get to the house I called my neighbor who was still at home and asked if he would be so kind as to go inside my house and grab my laptop. He graciously obliged, so I stopped by his home to retrieve it. Isn't it amazing how much we store on our computers? All those wonderful pictures, funny emails, new books in the making, and Mahjong for those times of boredom when nothing else draws our interest.
We had a small dinner and took care of a few phone calls and went to sleep. Every morning we get up early and spend time with God. We went for a walk that morning and prayed as we walked. When we rounded the corner we saw the sky all lit up and knew it wasn’t the sunrise. That was the first time we could smell it, that meant the wind was blowing different. We got in the truck and went up the street to get a better view.
I don’t know how far off it was, it’s hard to tell when it’s dark out. But the flames were taking out trees, burning brightly and consuming all in their path. We could see the lights on fire trucks spinning around in the distance. We went home and decided over breakfast that we would pack the car and truck with what we needed or wanted most in preparation for the worst. But just how do you choose? If I had been told that I only had 10 minutes to get what I needed, it might have been easier.
It was going to be 104 that day, and a cold front was coming the next day! After this it would only be in the 90s. But the worry was that the winds would change and come from the north, possibly causing hotspots to reignite and flames to blow in our direction. For now not one house was touched, thank you Father, but that could all change. Yet we both had a peace about us. It was alright, God was in charge, and we trusted Him.
We found our suitcases, which have sat in the attic unused since 2006 and brought them down. There were certain things that I knew we needed to take, and those things were packed first. There were prescriptions, makeup, toiletries, hot curlers and curling irons in one bag, old books in another, files in a box, computers on the back seat, bibles in a carry bag, and jewelry in another. I took my paintings and favorite pictures off the wall and wrapped them in blankets to protect them. I took my daughter’s first rubber doll, it was from my dad, and had 1956 stamped on the back, the year I was born. It is the one she pointed to and said her first word, “dolly,” when my mother held it up and asked her, “what is this?” I remembered how terrifically proud my mother was that day. I smiled and continued through the house.
What do you take? The check books and the registers, all of them. The spare keys to the house and car. The meds, the safe, guns and ammo if you have them. (If firefighters hear ammunition going off in your burning home, they will let it burn and concentrate on the land and containment instead. No need to get shot putting out a fire.) The right clothes and shoes, your pillow (don’t forget that), all the phone chargers, all the change in all the jars, the stamps, oh, and for me, my mother’s high chair and my father’s hat. I was packed and ready; we prayed and went to work.
We were not required to evacuate at that time, but there was nothing we could do at home, and plenty we could do at work. By the time we left we had heard that the fire was once again contained with no damage to any structures.