It all started with the electricity going out on Wednesday afternoon. I thought maybe it was because they found out I had been watering the plants all day. Then I was just irritated that I had to eat my dinner cold. THEN a neighbor came to tell me that there was a fire headed straight toward our road! (An alarmist, and I did find out right away that that was an exaggeration.)
By the next morning, I knew where the fire was, and I knew I would not have electricity for the day, but I truly thought that it was far enough away from where I live that it would only be an inconvenience for me. I headed to town, to get coffee and to re-charge my cell phone. After spending some leisurely time at Starbuck’s, I headed to the gym. I planned to spend more time than usual there, because I knew there wouldn’t be any electricity at home. As I swam, I did watch the smoke cloud, and I did wonder if perhaps it was getting bigger… I stopped at the store, just to get water and some ice, and then planned to get a burger on the way home. I noticed a bit of frenzied activity in the store, and I asked “have you heard anything about Hwy 88?” “yes, its closed!!” the clerk said excitedly. Honestly, that was the most nervous I was in this whole ordeal. I headed up 88, and it seemed normal for a while. Then I noticed cop cars blocking the entrance to all the major roads to the right of 88. And then I hit this scene:
In all my years of living up here, I have never seen cars backed up like this. It was like this for the last five or so miles into Pine Grove. The whole time I worried that I would not be allowed to go home to get my dogs.
Once home, indecision set in. What should I do? Where should I go? Also, I did not really have internet access, so I didn’t know for sure what was going on. There was really no one to tell me what to do. Noah’s regular trainer lived on the side of 88 that had already been blocked off, so I knew I could not take him there. I pretty much knew there was no place in the world I could take Noah, due to his “issues.” (Noah: “what? I bark a bit. No biggie.”) Finally I called my BF in Oregon, who is the voice of reason. She said, “call the vet, and see if they can take him.” I pretty much knew they couldn’t, but I did call, and they directed me to several boarding kennels. I called the first one, and timidly said, “well, he barks a lot.” The guy just sort of laughed and said, “we’re a boarding kennel, we’re used to that.” Oh, and the other bit of advice my BF said was to take the dog’s beds with me. That was a bit of genius!
I really didn’t pack a lot of stuff. None of my quilts. No paperwork, which might have been a good idea?, and just enough clothes for 3 days. Oh, and did I say it was scorching hot that day? I got all the dogs in the car, and we set off on our “adventure,” not quite having a whole plan.
After I dropped Noah off (which was in a place farther from the fire, and probably only 1500 foot elevation,) I saw this: That is not a cloud. I thought maybe it was some kind of chemical intervention. Or maybe just part of the fire. Anyway, that’s really the only interesting picture I took of the fire.
THEN, I had to figure out what to do for me and the girls (Sophie and Bess.) I headed back to Jackson, which was closer to home and the fires (but still safe) and stopped at the main hotel. They were working off of a waiting list… Okay, I’m not waiting in this heat in a car with a pug that can hardly breath in the best of conditions… I thought hard, and finally remembered the name of a hotel that I had stayed in in Folsom (about 30 miles, 45 minutes away.) Called them, and they did not accept dogs, but the desk clerk kindly informed me that the Staybridge Suites were accepting dogs. I called them, and not only did they accept dogs, but they were giving a discount rate to people who were being evacuated!! (oh, and side note: in the middle of me trying to tell her that they were good little dogs, etc., they got into one of their rare, but very dramatic fights, in the front seat of my car, while I’m trying to talk on the cell phone!)
We finally got to the hotel, and checked in (I won’t even tell you what happened in the lobby, but it was extremely messy, and I was extremely embarrassed.) The girls were SO EXCITED!! What a big new house to explore. Honestly, the whole time I was there, I felt like one of those old ladies with the hyperactive little dogs that she doesn’t know how to control . Its not like that at home 🙂
They WOULD NOT settle down, until I remembered THE BED. Ahhh, it was almost like being at home.
We stayed in Folsom for two days, checking constantly to try to figure out what was going on with the fire.* I finally decided that I wanted to go home, to get a few more things, and I planned to accept an old friend’s offer of coming to her house to stay. I was getting nervous about how much this was going to cost me. I also wanted to water my plants if possible. I imagined that they were all dead and dried up from three days over 100 degrees and no water. (*here’s a link to the stats on this fire. Its astonishing how huge it is, and how fast it grew, and how many firefighters and equipment is involved.)
I had talked to MLG, who said he had heard that PGE was bringing in generators to bring power back to Pine Grove. As I drove into town, I saw this! Can you tell how huge these things are? Like freight train cars. And there were probably 8 or 10 of them in that parking lot. I was very impressed with all they were doing to try to help people.
And how happy do you think I was to see this? I hopped out of the car and took this picture right away. Can you tell that there is smoke lingering in the air? I actually thought there was smoke coming from my house as I drove up the road!
I was actually shocked at how good all the plants looked. It seemed like a miracle that they didn’t even seem like they needed that much water. Here’s a picture of how everything looks–ash flakes covering everything.
So this morning I went to church, and what a special service it was. To see friends who I was worried about, and others who had been worried about me. To lift our voices together in praise for our God, and to hear of four families in our church who had lost their houses, while others’ houses had miraculously been saved. There was one family there, whose house had burned to the ground, and they had all their little doggies with them (they were extremely well behaved little dogs!)
Afterwards, I went to pick up Noah. I still wasn’t sure that I would be able to stay home, but I was really worried about how expensive all this was getting. Imagine my shock when they said there was no charge! Its one thing to hear about the kindness of strangers, but quite another when you are the recipient of that kindness.
And now tonight, with the latest news that they have opened up all those roads that were closed on the right side of 88, I do feel a little bit safer, and like I might not have to leave my house again. I am left with a very uncertain feeling. It very much reminded me of what I wrote a couple of years ago. Back then I was just observing other people’s uncertainty. Now I am experiencing it. My hope remains the same.
“Hope in Uncertain Times”