Friday, June 13, 2008

Martin Fire did NOT burn my house (but I am going to kick some fire ass)

*Please forgive any typos - I was frantic and pecking away...have cut and pasted for the sake of the fire photos below...

We were at a last day of school pool party on Wednesday. Around 3:30pm we noticed a large plume of smoke. A few of us stopped to watch it, and in just 2 minutes it grew larger.
"It looks as if it is right by my house!" I yelled, and took off to get dh and Bubbles, because I had the best working car. Seven minutes later I skidded into our gravel driveway - the fire had gained momentum and was very very close to our house.
"HUSBAND!!!" I screamed - he came outside - what?
"Behind you!!" I yelled - and then he looked.
And then we started packing the cars.
I didn't know what to pack. First I got the laptop and photo albums, Supergirl's bway (special blankie) , and Elijah's quilt. Then the papers and birth certs. I could not find the lock of hair from Elijah.
I had to give it up. What more was I supposed to pack? The photos....clothes, diapers, toys, underwear, milk.
I couldn't find Supergirl.
I called Nikki (pool party house) and her husband told me that she went with...umm....someone! WHY DIDN'T I YANK HER ASS OUT OF THE POOL AND TAKE HER W ME?

For one thing, I didn't expect absolute mayhem to ensue after I left the pool party. My house was the only one in danger. I intended to get my son and then go back to the party, which was farther away from the fire.
No. The whole mountain was instantly threatened. Everyone left the party right after I did.

Within 10 minutes of packing the car, the first emergency evacuation call came in. What made me crazy was the absence of sirens. I was spinning out about packing and watching the smoke come closer; meanwhile, there was absolutely nobody on the job. No sirens, nothing. It grew and grew. I couldn't believe that I could get an evacuation call and still - no fire fighters were even on the growing fire.
I was more frantic and less effective.
Finally, a good friend drove up with my hysterical daughter (oh the points I have racked up for Mother-of-the-year!)...all was well.
When we got Supergirl back i tossed her in the car while dh still packed up the van with anything and everything of value(significant or otherwise) ...clothes, artwork, hard drives, giant tv screen....ETC...
I told him I would meet him at a friend's house. By the time I got there, her neighborhood was also being evacuated. I drove back to the pool party friends - they too had received the notice to evacuate. I wasn't much help with my stressed out nearly 7 yr old and loud 2 yr old, so I headed down the mountain. Only a couple miles down, I noticed at least 50 cars lining the road - all people from the mountain. I decided to pull over until I could tell what was up.
from this spot there was a very good view of the fire. It didn't look good. My house was to the left of the original fire, and it looked to be spreading that way. STRESSING OUT.
We were all parked there because there was a police barricade ahead, and they were only letting cars down the mountain. Nobody was allowed back up, so many of us were reticent to cross the line.
Then I noticed troops of people heading up the hill on foot, carrying cat carriers,etc. I finally realized that the barricade went both ways -they were not allowing anyone (even residents) to come up the mountain.
I recognized a friend and asked her if I could drive her and her son home to get things - when I took her to her house, the fire had spread to very close to her property - I knew that was my last time down that road.
after getting Sharon to her house and stopping her husband and son as they drove off in the van, I asked to use her phone. I frantically called dh.

I had to tell him to get Elijah's ashes.
How fucking nuts is that? so they wouldn't BURN INTO NOTHINGNESS??? Jeez.
Cause that would SUCK.
He said he had already packed the box.
Allrighty then. Two crazies.

I went back out to the roadside neighborhood parking lot and ended up ferrying 7 or 8 more people up the mountain.
As long as I went between the roadblocks at the bottom and top of the mountain it seemed to be okay, though I got a couple of flashing lights and waves from sherriffs cars stationed at certain blocks as they recognized me.
But after I picked up the old couple who could barely walk, and then the guy whose teenagers were home alone - old enough to stay home but too young to drive -they were going to have to physically stop me before i quit.
The police at the barricade would not let these residents drive through, but allowed them to walk. Six miles up the mountain to their stranded kids. On foot. In a forest fire. HOW SAFE IS THAT???
I kept coming back to the line of cars to pick them up as they crossed the barricade, and it also allowed me a good view of the fire. I could see a structure had gone up with the ominous dark and toxic smoke billowing higher.

Nobody could tell which way the wind was going to shift - it was swirling wind - I was getting nervous.

After driving up and down the mountain between barricades for 2.5 hours, I could tell that our house was not in the path of the fire anymore, as it had shifted into the creek canyon, so i stopped by to see if the husband had left yet. He had not.
He had packed up the truck and the van (umm? driving 2 cars? huh? I was driving the one already) and wasn't worried.
In fact he had put a pizza in the oven.
The hell?
After I talked to a friend higher up the mountain who could see the fire and assured me it was headed away from our house, he convinced me to get the kids out of the car, which I did, after I had it facing up the driveway in fast escape position.

The phone was ringing, Supergirl was going nuts, Bubbles was spinning out from hours in the car and the palpable stress. The power went out around 8pm, so we had to hook up the pioneer phone (the one with a cord).
Dh kept watching the fire from our peak - we were out of danger - and then we slept for a few hours. He ran up the hill again early in the morning, and the fire was still burning but headed away from us. He came back to sleep while I got up with our VERY LOUD AND MEDIA STARVED children.
About an hour after he had gone back to sleep, the wind picked up, and not in our favor. The sky went from blue to white, and the smell became more acrid. i woke him up and he ran back up to check. While he was gone, two police officers came to my door and asked when were leaving.
i gestured to the three full vehicles. "We're ready to go." I answered.
"Well, we just want to make sure you are leaving sooner rather than later."
"We're all packed up and ready to go."I answered again.
"Your neighborhood is in danger- the fire is not contained."
"I am waiting for my husband to come back down from the hill where he is watching the fire. I also need to find my cat. But gotcha. We'll get down the mountain."

(Notice how I never lied?)

We milled around all morning, bored, tense, picking up random things to add to the stuffed vehicles: tampons, cell phone charger, dvds, milk, port (it's really old port!)
took walks up to the moonrocks lookout post.

(Here is where my laptop battery ran out. I am now too tired to do anything but post this and the pictures as promised. IT WAS TENSE, DUDE. REALLY TENSE.)

Looking up towards my house and getting nervous...

Now getting very nervous - the new plume to the left looks to be my house...

Taken near the same time (by Dh) from the other end of the fire, it looks to be creeping right up on us.

Laguna Creek Canyon catches on fire...

Notice the red flame retardant being dropped...

And the many, many helicopters overhead - some even spraying us!- THANK YOU!


Anonymous said...


i'm so relieved that you're okay. was glued to and scouring maps and pinging the BOS. sort of want to kick your asses for not evacuating, but you are a grownup. how's everyone's lungs holding up?

Denise said...

Oh babe how scary!

Anonymous said...


I can't wait to hear the end of the story. I am SO glad your family is fine and safe!!


Rebecca F.

furiousBall said...

i mean this when i say this.

holy crap.

Anonymous said...

I'm tense from all the way over here. TENSE.

Glad to know you guys are okay.

Blaize said...

I'm so glad you and yours are safe. And that your house made it through.

Green Kitchen said...

Wow! I thought that your absence of posting meant the house was gone. So glad to hear it's OK. I knew you would be OK. Sara was really worried for you, since she knows how close y'all were. What craziness!

Anonymous said...

Wow!! close call. You are solucky. We were following your house condition on the maps. It was sooo close. I can't believe you guys stayed up there. I'm so glad you are OK. Let me know when you're book is ready. You have so many interesting? adventures. said...

Ho.Ly. Crap.

Is it over? Are you ok?

Unknown said...

OMG I"m soooo glad you are OK, i was scared for you and I CANNOT believe you even had the presence of mind to write about it all so soon! But I'm also glad you did! In case those people you gave rides to didn't mention it, THANK YOU for helping them! Yikes dearest favorite cousin!
I never write back or comment but I love you and miss you and I'm sooooooooo glad you and yours are ok!

Tricia said...

Holy shit!!

I've been obsessed and tracking my own map of nearby Paradise- many friends have been evacuated.

I'm hoping you guys are still safe!!

mamadaisy said...

holy crap! that is some seriously scary stuff. i'm so glad you are ok! (and brave

fairymama said...

OMG...I'm so glad you are all well.

Lin said...

So relieved you all made it through okay. It is the oddest feeling when one is surrounded by smoke and fear. I'm so happy all is well.

zoe krylova said...

oh. my. god. i am so relieved you all are safe. you can probably relate to this:

Keeping up with the Joneses said...

hey gwen,

i adore your blog. i can hardly read some of your posts without laughing out load or crying. nicole w. is my friend and boss lady. i heart nicole. i hope you don't mind that i mentioned you in my blog today. i've been thinking about you all so much with the fire and all.

best wishes,