Saturday, November 24, 2007

The October Fires

It was Sunday, "almost-Halloween" time. We were at a little girl's birthday party down the street (a friend who has adopted 2 little girls from China, and lives a block and a half away!) I had been in the house for a bit and came outside to a "cloudy" sky in the afternoon. It had been a warm day, so the clouds caught me off guard. "The sky looks kind of funny...almost looks like smoke..." The few people standing outside smiled at me as if to say, 'where have you been...haven't you heard the news?' Come to find out there was a fire in Ramona...20-30 minutes away. I hoped that it was no where near my friends' houses up there, and had no idea what was in store for us that week. I looked down and saw ashes on the princess astro-jump.

We were near the Witch Creek Fire, the largest one in California. I wish I had taken a picture of the sun late that afternoon. Colton (almost 9) and I went to the grocery store and were amazed to see the sky when we came out. The sun was red. Not orange, or even a deep orange, but red. Colton said, "I don't think that's the sun." It didn't look real.

The fires still seemed pretty far away, so I went to my sign language class that evening. Our 4 year old, Ryan, opened the door to say good bye and turned his head as if standing near a bonfire. I didn't realize it was that smoky until I got 20 minutes away and closer to the ocean and got a good look at what I had just come from. Half the sky was glowing a smoky orange, and the rest of the sky was a beautiful blue at dusk. As ominous as it looked, it was really quite beautiful!

Usually a Santa Ana means it will be hot, when it shouldn't be hot, and with a bit gusty winds. Well on that night, the winds were just howling. Windy like you would expect with pouring rain and thunder. Except there was no rain and no thunder, and it was warm. My poor windchime on the balcony about blew off the hook, and the trees were bending in the wind. A horrible time for a fire.

Well the Santa Ana winds blew from 50-70mph, and within 8 hours had blown the fire westward from the Witch Creek, (east of Ramona), to Escondido...10-15 minutes away. So 5:am I'm watching the news wondering if I should call my sister about her evacuating, not realizing that we were the ones who were going to have to evacuate. Kevin goes to work (!) with a casual 'Let me know if anyone has to evacuate' comment on the way out the door. The phone starts ringing....Are you guys OK? did you know they're evacuating your area? Need a place to go? I'm really tired and just want to fall back asleep. Getting up, packing up the tribe and all my worldly possessions was not on my list of things I was hoping to do today. (Kevin came home an hour and a half later.)

Well the Lord was watching over us and we went to my brother and sister-in-laws house that morning. They live near the beach, and have 3 kids. Our little ones had cousins and toys to play with, the big kids had a lovely pool to swim in (I know it's almost November, but don't forget it was a Santa Ana, and very warm). Kate had a crib to sleep in, and the rest of us sacked out on the couch or in sleeping bags. I think it was more of a campout for the kids! Murphy and the three cats were welcome, too. (We took Murphy and the kids to 'Dog Beach'...pretty funny. Murphy kept trying to bite the waves. It was his first time in the ocean!) It could not have been better, but was still an exhausting week. I kept wondering what it would have been like if we had had to go to the stadium. (Yikes!!!) I'll always be grateful they let us move in for 3 days. Their neighbors all seemed to have a houseful of people staying too. I guess that's what happens when you evacuate 25% of a city the size of San Diego!

By the time the Witch Creek fire was out, it had burned more than 200,000 acres, and destroyed about 1500 homes. We drove home in a "dusty" car, to what looked like a dusty house, where ash had made it inside. But when you would clean, the dust rag was black, as were the bottoms of your feet. Oddly enough, even near the beach, where the air was relatively clear, everyone's feet were black from the soot in the air/on the ground...even inside the house!

I drove to the mall the other day in Escondido, a 15 minute drive. On the way, you drive past the spot where the fire jumped Hwy. 15, an 8 lane freeway, with a width of 400 feet....greater than the length of a football field! I realize we were very lucky that the fire was stopped by all the firefighters in San Diego, and all the f.f. from different cities and states who came to help. My heartfelt 'thanks'!!!

Even at the beach, the sky was hazy with smoke.

Murphy making friends at the beach! :)