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The fire this time

By on August 24, 2020 in Uncategorized with 1 Comment

Fire creeps down the hillside, edging closer to homes.

‘Be prepared plan’ softened panic, but still, time was wasted on non-essentials

By Diana Rigelman

At first there was just a pleasant hint of smoke. It smelled of wood, grass and nature as it wafted through windows. 

When I looked outside, I saw a small plume of smoke rising from a neighboring hill. I wondered if someone had called it in. 

Fire. A four-letter word that’s well respected this time of year. 

I could see charcoal color start to run across the grassy expanse. It reminded me of how a cigarette burns. As with each draw of a breath through a cigarette, red embers glowed, blackening the earth in a jagged pattern. 

Alarmingly, smoke and embers were heading in my direction. That’s when the phone beeped — announcing a Level 1 Evacuation Alert. The danger was real and unfolding quickly. Stay tuned.

What to do now? 

Luckily, irrigation sprinklers were already on. As a precaution, I set out another hose and sprinkler to water down all that I could. I’ve never been in the line of a fire before. My nerves and imagination were kicking in. What to do next? 

Before I could answer my own question, there was another beep from the phone. 

Just 17 minutes after the first alert arrived, a Level 2 Alert was announced… the “get ready to leave soon” notice. 

So fast? I thought I’d have more time. 

My gut said, “It’s all going to be OK.” My mind said, “Get moving sister, you may only have minutes.” What do you take if you have only moments to prepare should fire find its way towards your door? 

Earlier in the year, I noticed a class about evacuation preparedness, taught by RN Lori Nitchals, through Pybus University. I had begun working on a fire evacuation plan, implementing several of Lori’s ideas. 

Should the time to run arrive, I was ahead of the game. I had the Important Papers File together. 

Thankfully in that Level 2 Evac moment, I didn’t have to dig for birth and wedding certificates, passports and other documents if — God forbid — this house wasn’t here when I returned. 

My designated suitcase was already half full with must-takes. I ran for my old address book and tossed it in, along with the computer and cords. Why hadn’t I packed toiletries? Where were the extra toothbrushes? 

Between trips to the car, I looked out the window to see how that ominous charcoal shadow was progressing. 

Helicopters were dumping buckets of water on the fire as an airplane dumped flame retardant. It seemed like a movie watching firefighters walking through the smoky haze. They worked the edge of the blaze putting themselves between me and the fire. 

Tense moments dragged on. 

I checked the phone again. No “get-out-now” level 3 alert had been issued. 

Studying the hill from my vantage point, it looked like the fire had just changed its mind. A little breeze had it dancing off in another direction. 

I breathed a little deeper and said a prayer for those battling the smoke, heat and flames. Together they were saving my neighborhood. 

I’d like to say I remembered to grab a couple of photo albums, my grandmother’s bible, last year’s tax return and the latest family portrait off the wall. But in those moments it never occurred to me. 

I wasted time looking for a silly tube of toothpaste. 

Thankfully I didn’t have to leave my home. No structures were lost in the Sunset Fire of July 13. 

Thank you to all the fire fighting agencies that saved my neighborhood. 

The Be Prepared Plan softened my panic. I was mostly prepared for what one can never fully be prepared for. 

For now, I’m leaving that suitcase packed. Possibly until Thanksgiving arrives and summer fire season is good and over. 

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  1. Carolyn LongSoldier says:

    A harrowing experience! Loved the read!

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