Friday, June 22, 2012

Solstice Fire

Yesterday I was as scared as I've ever been.  We had yet another fire -- the second one this week.

It was such a lovely, relaxing morning.  Early in the day, I'd taken a long walk with the dogs, then worked in the garden for awhile, and finally come in for lunch.  After eating, I went back outside to enjoy more of this day that at last wasn't searingly hot.  Breezy, though (this detail matters).  I spent more time in the orchard garden -- this time not working, but just sitting still, watching the goldfinches bathing in the birdbath.  Then I went back inside.

This picture was taken about an hour after the flames had passed
Fifteen minutes later, I heard and ignored the loud buzzing of a small plane overhead.  A minute or so later, it went over again.  On it's third pass, I ran outside to see where the fire was.  Astoundingly, smoke billowed up in the same vicinity as Tuesday's fire, except this time it was much, much closer.  So much closer, in fact, that it couldn't be much closer without actually being right here.  Pretty much this close:

In absolute panic, I called Bruce, working two hours away, to get home (he made it in 1 1/2 hours), and then drove our road to the top of the little hill just before you reach the highway.  A wall of flame was coming towards the road.  Click on the link below, and then click the "Labels: vegetation fire" tag to see what I saw (it may take a few minutes to load -- they're a lot of them).  The third picture down (with the highway patrol car going past) is our street sign surrounded by flames.


All the people who'd been evacuated from the other side of the road had their cars parked on this side. Everyone was just standing and watching, like we were at a parade or the circus. I was relieved that from here it was very apparent that the strong breeze was blowing the fire east, away from our property.  Unfortunately, this also meant that the fire was being pushed towards some of these folks homes.  I stood very quietly with them for a few minutes and then went back home.

Bruce had told me to put my laptop in the car and have the car pointed towards the driveway for a quick exit if need be.  I went through the house, wondering what else to take.  In the end, I only grabbed my purse and my passport and put them in the car.  I could let all my stuff go.  I also knew that the fire crews might not be able to stop the fire from coming across our property, but they would put their whole effort into saving our house.  The logistics of loading up four cats and three dogs into my tiny Honda Fitt for an evacuation order that may or may not come was a bad idea.  All the cats were sleeping inside, so I closed them in -- again, the house was the safest place to be (I hoped).  If it came to it, I would get out with the dogs.  As for the other animals, Cornelius was safe (and oblivious)  in his grazed-down five acre pasture -- actually, it made a very good fire break in the area closest to the highway.  I would open the coop so the chickens could get out.  The ducklings and chicks would have to stay put in the barn.

Then I stood on the embankment with my cell phone in my pocket and the hose in the other, wetting down the embankment around our house.  After seeing the size of the flames, I realized how futile a gesture this was, but did it anyway.  There was nothing else to do. 

While standing there, with the water spraying, helicopters choppering back and forth dropping their loads of retardant and spotter planes circling overhead, I got a text message from my school principal.  He was letting me know that the exterminators had been to my classroom and my mouse problem was a thing of the past.  I thanked him and then sent him a pic of my newest problem.  He's come to learn that, with me, there's always something.

After about an hour, I could see that the danger was pretty well past, so I went back to the head of our road where it comes in from the highway.  The evacuation order was just being lifted, so the people who had been standing there were getting ready to go back to their places.  I spoke to one man who was worried because he'd had to leave his animals -- he had one dog in the back of his car.  The final report says that no structures were lost, so I'm certain that his animals are OK. 

The smudge in the sky is a helicopter still making drops of retardant
And then, there came Bruce in his blue car.  Everyone else was leaving while Bruce and I stood in that dusty parking area hugging.  I just hung on to him while we looked at what was left by the fire on the other side of the road.

Today the wind is blowing again.  Bruce and I decided that we need to do more to fireproof our house -- we'll start this weekend.  The orchard garden will get a break from me for awhile.

I'm still absolutely wrung out by yesterday's events.  It's Becky's birthday today, and I must get ready to go down the hill in a little while to take her out to lunch. It will do me good to get away for a little while.  In the end, the fire didn't make it over here, no one lost their house, even most of the oak trees on the other of the road look like they'll survive.  Finally,  one musn't forget: no mice in my classroom anymore!


  1. Leslie, just looked at the pictures in the link.OMG,how awful.
    I can understand how vulnerable and scared you must have been,thank heavens you and your neighbors are all safe and unharmed.
    I don't know what else to say except that I hope there will not be any more fires so you never have to feel this scared again.
    glad the school mouse problem has been sorted.!!!!!!
    Take care

  2. Carolyn, thank you for your concern. I just looked back on the picture link website -- these fires are now being classed as "suspicious" and are under investigation. If this is true, I hope that whoever has done this is stupid as well as heartless so that the authorities are able to nab them quickly (and before they set fire to this side of the highway).

    Hmmm...I do suppose that burning down the house would also take care of our mouse problem here...but perhaps just a little bit extreme! :) Onward!