the knitting ref

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

How Could I Forget?
My mom called a little bit ago to remind me that at exactly, precisely 2 years ago at this moment of the day the Hubster and I were frantically packing our cars with animals, pictures and other precious belongings in anticipation of possibly evacuating from the Old Fire. If you scroll down to the 4th picture on the page, we watched the flames from these precise homes (and many others) from our rooftop.

I have lived my entire life in this valley and watched the hillsides burn many a time. But that day, the flames moved faster than I've ever seen. When the fire first started, we were clear across the valley at the girl child's soccer game. The wind was blowing west, so we weren't worried for ourselves--then. After the game, the girl child went to a friend's house to help them evacuate (that house burned), and then got a call from another friend to help move cars from her house (that house was also lost). The boy child had spent the night at a friend's and by the time the evacuation order came, we just told him to stay put. My 77-year-old mother, on the other hand, parked as close as she could to the police line and WALKED almost a mile to our house to see if we needed help!!! (Force of nature, that woman.) At that point we had no power, no regular phone service, but the cell phones and most importantly, the water, worked. We sent her on her way with a few token things, and she walked back to her car.

The Hubster got up on the roof to hose it down while I paced back and forth from house to cars, filling them with the most nonsensical things (my birthday cards????), all the while forgetting other things (my flutes, guitar, bassoon, sax???). That came to a halt when he yelled at me just as I had entered the front door for the 100th time. I ran back out and looked up. He wasn't there! I figured he had fallen off the roof into the backyard. So I can to the back door. As soon as I opened it, I realized why he yelled. The back yard was on fire! It had started in the compost pile and had quickly spread to the neighbor's oleanders. I tried to turn on the hose, but there was almost no pressure. The Hubster got down and turned off the front hose, which helped a lot. With God's grace, we were able to knock down the fire with the hose, a pick ax, and a gardening hoe. I don't know how long we worked--in some ways it seemed like hours, and others, only a few minutes--but we stopped the fire literally 15 feet from our house. I know that we also most probably also saved 2 of our neighbors, if not more, since those oleanders burn something awful.

I remember all the sounds (cause we couldn't see much)--the wind, the helicopters, the explosions from car tires, gas lines and who knows what else. It's what I imagine a war zone sounds like. Goodness knows that's what it felt like.

We spent the next several hours keeping watch from the roof. No pictures. It wasn't something we thought about until well after it was over. After dark, the only light came from the embers of burned houses and what was still burning on the hillside, but we had a big flashlight. It was amazing the number of people who sped up when the beam of light hit them. (Looters, maybe?)

We went for a walk about 11:00--there was no one to stop us--and we couldn't believe the devastation. Exhaustion was the only thing that had us falling into bed somewhere around 2:00 a.m. We didn't sleep much.

I think the final total was over 500 homes in San Bernardino and the mountain communities burned. All because some (@*$& wanted to get his jollys by starting a fire. Many of the houses in S.B. have been rebuilt, although there are still an awful lot of empty lots. So many of the houses that were burned were ones that I had been in, visiting friends from the time I was a child, through high school and beyond. All together, 6 of our friends completely lost their homes, and another 3 had substantial damage. It was heartbreaking. To this day, I still get a little hitch in my heart whenever I smell smoke in the neighborhood. It's going to take a lot longer than 2 years to really get over it. And we were the lucky ones.


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