Monday, October 26, 2009

The old fire

We drove home from our trip to Las Vegas the back way. I had not driven this way in 6 years. And I wasn't sure I ever wanted to again. But the traffic was stop and go and we wanted to go instead of stop. While we drove we talked about what had happened and Sue encouraged me to write it down. And I am still not sure I want to. I still can not think about those days with out wanting to break down and lose it. I still can not think of those days with any sort of fondness. It still for me is a big nightmare. Yet she pointed out that even though it was a nightmare we survived. Even though we thought it might destroy everything we had built up it didn't.

It all started while we were driving home from the beach. I looked up at the mountains and saw a fire burning. It wasn't burning in our mountains but I did not think that mattered much. This fire was burning in the San Garbiel mountains. I pointed the fire out to Chalon and Sue and they said it was too far away. But I knew in my stomach and in my soul that this fire was different.

A day or two later that fire was still burning. It had jumped the I15 freeway and jumped the 215 freeway and was now in our mountains although still far away. And we were loading our truck and trailer to move to Utah. As we began loading this second load we realized that we didn't have enough room for all our things. We were not too worried because we figured we would just leave the rest of the stuff with Cameron's parents. We were getting ready to say goodbye to our dogs who couldn't come. (Our apartment wouldn't accept dogs and we couldn't find any that would accept dogs.) Some friends who worked for a camp in town planned to take them.

I don't remember how we found out. Did we hear sirens? Did we call someone? I don't know if we had the technology yet to look on the internet. But we found out that a new fire had started at the bottom of Highway 330 in our mountains. At the same time we realized that we couldn't leave all our stuff in the mountains that were burning down. Cameron left quickly to procure a rental truck. I don't remember what I did. Our house was empty. Our escrow had closed and we had half our stuff sitting on the driveway. I was worried that everything would burn and we no longer had insurance for any of it.

Cameron found a truck to rent but it was late in the day and they had already blocked the mountain roads so that he couldn't come up. First he tried 330 but it was blocked. Then he tried highway 38 but they wouldn't let him up that way either. Eventually he drove through the barricades and came up 330. While this was going on the power was out and I had a 18 month old who could feel the stress. I did not handle any of it well and was scared. Looking back it seems a little naive to be so afraid. The fire was not actually going to burn me while I was there but at the time I felt like it might. The dark house, lack of an ability to cook or entertain and being cut off from the world made it hard. Cameron loaded our things into the back of the truck by headlights that night as I sat in bed with Ali at his parents house so she wouldn't be afraid.

The next morning I was anxious to go. The evacuations were still voluntary but the fire was coming and the power was still out. It was eerie to see the deep blue sky, hear the quiet half evacuated town, and see on a plume of smoke in what seemed to be the far distance. We had to load our dogs into the back of our truck unsure of what we would do with them when we arrived in Utah. We loaded everything and finally left in the middle of the day.

We couldn't leave the normal way down highway 330 because it was closed. We couldn't leave the normal back up way through highway 18 because it was closed. We couldn't travel out through highway 38 because I15 and 215 were closed. The only way to get to Utah was to drive out down the backside of Big Bear. A problem... a big problem was that we had very little gas. I did not have much gas in my subaru and Cameron did not have much gas in the truck. There was no power in Running Springs and thus no gas. We drove to Big Bear where the electricity was on and where we hoped to fill up. But they only were allowing people to buy 10.00 worth of gas. This was about 5 gallons and we were worried.

So we drove down the long windy road that goes from big bear to the lucern valley with hardly any gas. The road has steep grades and Cameron had a moving truck with a trailer that hardly fit around the corners. I worried that he was going to drive over the edge or that he was going to lose his breaks. And it took forever. He drove so slow in first to make it around the corners. Finally we arrived in Barstow and we able to fill up there. Our five gallons of gasoline had been enough and I was very thankful.

Its funny because reading this just doesn't do it justice. Maybe it was my youth or inexperience in life. Maybe it was the fear of the unknown or the stress that is always associated with selling your first house and moving. Maybe it was the stress of wondering if we were really doing the right thing. But the way I felt then when I was so helpless to prevent what was happening was one of the scariest things I can imagine.