On August 18th we had to evacuate because of the lightning fires in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The fire was coming down the mountains towards our little town of Boulder Creek. There are very few roads in or out, so the entire area was told to evacuate. It was a rough hour or so of running around the house, packing up our pets and essentials and then leaving, each of us driving a car. It was so smoky we were wearing the n-95 masks we had from the fires in the Bay Area last year. It had been over 100F every day for more than a week (very unusual) and it was still very hot that evening as we left.
All I could think of was needing to get my people and animals to safety, nothing else mattered. A very primal response to want to go to ground at my parent's house. Even with the Cover risk, they welcomed us in. And here we still are. Over the next few days we watched in horror as the fire burned closer and closer to town, marching along slowly, and with so few firefighters on the fire because of all the other ones in the Bay Area. At one point it seemed as if they were going to have to give up and get out to safety, but they stopped it from advancing past the highway that divides our valley. We just happen to live on the "safe" side. At least for now. The fire was within a mile "as the crow flies" from our house. Across the two-lane road that's the highway, a small creek/river and then a steep hill. Fires love to go up, so if it had jumped the highway and river, that would have been it for us.
The utilities getting restored and the firefighters making sure the trees weakened by fire are safely down is what's holding us back from getting to go back home. Also the fire is still active fairly near Boulder Creek and Ben Lomond, if the weather changes, the following might all be a jinx just to say it.
It's very much a limbo situation where we're fairly sure our house is "fine", but we haven't been able to see it with our own eyes yet. One person in our neighbor's group on Facebook called it Schrödinger's house, which is a very apt description. I'll only believe it's still there and okay when I see it for myself. And then there's the matter of the full refrigerator and freezer that's had no power for a week and a half. With bonus fresh salmon sitting in it that we were planning to have for dinner that Tuesday night which seems like months ago. Seems like a new refrigerator may be in our new future and we'll feel damn lucky if that's the extent of the problems we encounter.
I'm dreading going back, survivor's guilt is very very real, and the grief I feel for the forest is immense.
A Few Lessons learned:
I have my priorities straight, I didn't delay our departure trying to grab a lot of material/sentimental things. I focused only on people, pets, and papers.
I need to bring the chargers for devices.
I need to finish scanning pictures and documents to the cloud so they're safe and available.
I need to find out if our fire department wants us to leave the power on or not when we're told to evacuate. I thought they wanted it off, so we shut off our panel and then the gas too. Need to get clarity on that detail, because maybe our fridge would be okay as I think the power has possibly been on the whole time at our place.
We need to update our neighborhood phone tree list as half of the neighbors are newbies.
We need to spend more time and money on working on defensible space on our property and surrounding ones.
I want to work on changing the law for prisoner fire fighters so that they are able to apply to become fire fighters after they're done serving their time. It came to the floor earlier this year in the CA legislature but was defeated.
I really want one of those Ring doorbell things, several of our neighbors have them and it was so reassuring to see the pictures posted during the fire's march towards us.
I'm lucky to be in a privileged enough position to be able to say over and over to myself, "it's all just stuff, my family is safe, it's all just stuff."