If you had a wildfire raging down a mountain, directly toward your house, and you had one hour to pack your car, what would you take with you?
Sunday night my family found out that answer to that question. Sunday afternoon (in between football games) I heard news that a wildfire had broken out at Camp Williams on the other side of the mountain we live on and it was out of control. I heard the neighborhood on the other side of the mountain had been evacuated. I went out on my deck and saw this:
The kids and I watched the helicopters dunk giant buckets (I'm told they're giant. It looked a little humorous to me that these tiny little buckets were going ot put out a wildfire) into the neighborhood reservoir and struggle over the mountain with the strong winds.
By sunset, the neighbors had all congregated outside and heard the fire was expected to crest the mountain by nightfall. That rumor proved accurate:
At this point, I had already instructed the kids to get their cameras and take photos of all the "expensive" things in the house for insurance and tracked down everyone's birth certificates, passports, and social security cards. But when this fire started barreling its way down the mountain at us and we all realized there was a good chance we would be leaving a house that would not be standing when we returned, I told my kids to pack a backpack with clothes and pajamas for two days and anything else that was special to them that they wanted to bring. It was at this point that I was able to convince Jake to stop watching football and painting his Warhammer figurines and start packing our two SUVs.
We left under mandatory evacuation about an hour later with two cars and a truck and made it safely to Jake's mom's house, only a mile down the mountain and watched the mountain burn all night. We were prepared to be evacuated from her house as well.
Amazingly, the strong winds and high temperatures that had fueled the fire out of control all night stopped only 10-15 feet from burning our neighbor's homes. The wind changed direction and a cold front dropped the temperate 20 degrees in half an hour. By morning, the fire had spared hundreds of homes and only taken three.
The fire did little more in our area than burn through a neighbor's fence.
No doubt we are all blessed. We are blessed with loving neighbors who all made sure we were accounted for and had a place to go and who followed up with each other all through the night and the next two days we were still evacuated from our homes.
We are blessed with a city and municipalities and a community who were prepared and dedicated enough to stop the fire from mass destruction, keep us updated, and offer shelter, food, supplies, and support to everyone displaced.
We are blessed with a loving God who listened to our prayers and the prayers of those who love us and spared our homes.
After three days away from our homes, we are more thankful than ever for them. We have a rainstorm coming in today and we continue to pray our homes stay safe from lightening, mudslides, and flooding.
While the images in my head of the fire spilling over the mountain towards us are pretty frightening, we were blessed with the calm of knowing we had our family with us and we left peacefully knowing that was all we needed.
We were lucky. We had time to fill our cars with the material possessions most important to us. And in the midst of the danger, what filled our cars as we drove away allowed me to smile, and even laugh.
So, the hypothetical question of, "If you were stranded on an island and could have only three things, what would you choose?" became a reality for us, posed as, "If you have a wildfire raging down a mountain toward your home, and you had only an hour to fill your car, what would you choose?"
Do you want to know what we chose? It's eerily revealing and the only reason I am willing to share is because we honestly would have left the house and everything in it in a heartbeat. But, because we did have time, here are the things we chose (besides our two days of clothing and hygiene items and lots and lots of allergy medicine):
Camera (not pictured here for obvious reasons)
Running shoes (both sentimental and practical when, you know, running from a fire)
iPhone and charger
Laptop (contains all my photos and my 80% finished novel)
Notes for my Novel
Basket of library books (There's like $500 in books in there I don't want to owe the library)
Bag of eBay items whose auctions ended that very night. (No need to risk my eBay reputation over my house burning down).
I also brought water, gatorade, a bag of string cheese and and a few boxes of Chocolate Chex Mix Bars. Double Box Tops--Boo-yah! Plus those things are delicious. I mean, for the kids. Yeah, for the kids. Not me.
Ok. On to Jake. What did he bring?
Warhammer figurines. Boxes and boxes of Warhammer figurines. He filled the entire second SUV with Warhammer figurines. And paints to paint them. OK FINE, he went back last minute and also got the PS3, Wii, and XBOX 360 and the games for them. And a suit for work the next day. And he threw the kids' bikes and scooters in the back of his truck. But pretty much . . . just these:
He also went inside and ate an orange and made himself some nachos before the police started yelling on their bullhorn we absolutely all had to leave. Bizarre.
The kids were the cutest though. They came upstairs wearing two backpacks each and had two grocery bags full of stuff in each hand, along with their pillows and blankets. Inside those bags?
Several Webkinz and other stuffed animals
Nintendo DS and case
Seashell and Starfish
Koosh Ball Animal Collection
Scriptures (I'm going to say because she wanted to have with her the word of God, not because she
just got a super cute zebra-striped cover and tote for them this week.:) )
Zhu Zhu Pets
Several Webkinz and other stuffed animals
Bottle of Water
Beer Bottle doh! er, pirate party invitation holder
6 pumpkin notebooks
Foam Play Gun
Penguin container from Nana
3 Balls (including the Sky Ball, which is pretty darn cool, I admit)
Picture he painted in art class
Ceramic snake he made in art class
Puppet from Sunday School
Misc. prize toys
Magic Tree House book
Things I thought about packing after that I didn't: Our guitars, my press pass
And finally, necessities we bought at the store yesterday: Newspaper with the cover photo of the fire, razors, toothbrushes for the kids, a puzzle, Diet Coke, and chocolate.