Fires are a part of summer around here anymore. Not a pleasant part, but nonetheless a part of summer in Eastern Washington. 3 big ones started Sunday. One heading in the direction of our house. When we first saw the smoke it wasn’t too big, but in the windy conditions it was spreading quickly.
The other 2 were miles away. Actually there were even more than that but they got control of the others quickly and they didn’t spread. There was one South and one West, both outside of town. The one on Beacon Hill was in a rural area between the north side of town and the valley part of town, but the wind was blowing towards our place and the fire was moving fast.
Years ago, we lived north of Spokane in a small community called Chattaroy. I was at work in town and Bob had gotten home from work already. The kids were in school. I heard on the news that there was a fire heading towards Chattaroy. I called Bob and told him to get the word out to the neighbors and start watering down the house and yard. He hadn’t heard about it yet and they were talking evacuations. I was not quite as confident as I am now, I guess. I told my nail client that I needed to go, that my kids needed to be picked up and I needed to get home. She told me that if I finished quickly I’d get there sooner. I was actually dumb enough to sit there and finish her nails. I just didn’t think that it was totally up to me to just go. Now would be a different story.
By the time I finished, the kids had been bussed to the high school which was 5 miles the other side of where the house was and the roads were closed. I couldn’t get home. I was stuck in town and my kids were stuck at the school. What I didn’t know is they wouldn’t let the kids find their siblings, so they weren’t even together. They were scared, I was livid. I went to my mother’s house and glued myself to the TV news.
My husband was at home (this was before we all had cell phones glued to our hands) and I couldn’t reach him. Last I heard they were evacuating. He said he was throwing a few things in our camper so if they did evacuate he’d be ready.
When they finally opened the roads I flew to the school and got the kids. It was chaos, as you can imagine. All the parents picking up their kids. I got ours and headed home, not sure what I would find. When we turned the corner into the neighborhood, there was my hubby and all the neighbors sitting on the neighbors deck drinking beer. The police had come around asking them to leave and almost immediately another came around saying the evacuation was called off and the fire was under control.
I was furious, exhausted, aggravated, happy, all at the same time. I had been running around like mad and here were all the neighbors laughing and drinking together. It was a good thing though, the fire was under control and our house was still there. They were all just letting off steam from the adrenaline rush. We went home to make dinner and feed the kiddos and pretend our world hadn’t been scrambled for the last 5 hours.
We walked into the house and the cupboards were nearly empty. The TV and stereo were gone. Bob had loaded all the stuff he thought we might need, if we had to live in the camper for a while. I mean we couldn’t even find anything to make for dinner that night. It was hysterical. Everything we owned was packed into a little camper on the back of our pickup, and here we were sitting in our living room staring at the walls, too tired to unload the camper.
You know, we did have to unload the camper, put our house back together and put the kitchen in order again. But you know what? We had still had that home, our home. Yes, it’s nerve wracking, it scares the bejeebers out of you and probably takes a year off your life, but we still had our home.
We have nearly been ousted from our home one other time. Spokane had a huge firestorm one year. We had fires all around town, many fires were set, accidentally and intentionally. It was terrifying. This time Bob was out fighting to save not just our home, but our community. Yes it was that bad. While he was gone, I was the one packing and loading. As the kids and I watched the flames come over the hill about a quarter-mile above our house, we put the last of the essentials in the vehicles and readied to leave when Bob and the others came home saying they got it under control.
Whew! Again we GOT to unpack. So far, we’ve always gotten to unpack and live in our home after the fire. This year, our fires have burned 16 homes. At least that’s the last I heard. They think these fires were started by downed power lines. At least they weren’t human caused. Not a lit cigarette thrown out the window (i will turn you in if i see you throw one out your window!), not target practicers on a 92 degree day. But no matter what started them, those people can not un pack their camper, they don’t get to put that home back together and they won’t get to put that kitchen back in order. I’m truly sorry for that. I say a little prayer for them each day, that they’ll be able to put their lives back together again. Yes, it’s only ‘stuff’ and happily they are alive and well, but it’s devastating to start over.
I am thankful for the firefighters, the ones on the ground, the ones in the air, the coordinators, anyone who is involved with making it possible for me to still have my home, and my life. I am happy to thank them when I see them or buy their meal if we happen to be at the same restaraunt sometimes. I am happy they do what they do.
Have you been through an evacuation? a fire? How did you do it? Did you pack your whole household into a camper or did you have to get out with nothing?