We are fine, back in our house and the air quality is much better than it has been all week. Most importantly the Santa Ana winds are gone and there is only a light breeze. The fire that was threatening our area was the Witch Creek fire. When we went to bed at 11pm on Sunday night, it was a small fire… my friend Annie woke me up Monday at 6:30am, it had spread and the area above state route 56 (just north of us) had been evacuated. She wanted to send her husband Mark over to check on me, but we were fine and still sleeping! School was cancelled at 6:45am. That’s when I knew it was serious. The first “do you need help” calls came from WD-40 folks. Andrew who works with Patrick and Heidi (who works with Patrick but is also my friend because our kids go to school together) both called by 7:30 to see if we needed help getting stuff together and in the car. The next few hours were a deluge of calls from local friends offering to help. Funny thing, the Navy called at 11am – the next day! We ended up getting a lot of emails from Fleet and Family Support but honestly I’m going with local friends and/or the WD-40 folks if there is ever another emergency!
I was glued to the TV on Monday. You think you are prepared, but then when you have time there is always one more thing. I spent Monday videotaping the house (which I had done a few years ago) and taking pictures throughout the house. I burned both of those to DVD’s and I also did another backup of my files to a backup machine. I staged all of our non replaceable things in the my bedroom, the family room and the garage. By dinner time, it looked like we were staying and then during dinner my friend Heidi (who lives a few street down) called and said that we were being evacuated. I turned on the tv and started packing up the staged items. There was some confusion on the news as to whether our area “Torrey Hill” was being evacuated. The news anchors admitted that they were unsure but as one of them said… “Hey listen, if I lived in Torrey Hills I’d leave”. Good enough for me! While I was loading the car we did get the reverse 911 Mandatory Evacuation notice (about 8:30). We were out by 8:50pm and the whole street was almost gone by then. I think that without the reverse 911 and the confusion on the news, some of us would have stayed… but we didn’t stick around to wait for the police to come through with bull horns like people did in 2004. The reverse 911 is brilliant. A “Get out now” phone call is very effective. I registered my cell phone on it yesterday just in case I am not at home the next time. This fire is worse (size of the fires and number of homes destroyed) than the 2004 fires, yet there have been only 4 or 5 direct fire related deaths. All other deaths being attributed to the fires are of older people that died during or after being evacuated.
We drove north to our friends Mark and Annie’s. We were really comfortable, VERY well taken care of, actually slept really well and honestly the kids didn’t want to leave. We were recalled yesterday at 8:30am, but we took our time. I still have stuff packed, but the threat is over now that the winds are gone. Here is a picture that shows in red/orange where the fire has burned. I put aqua blue arrows to show the potential route that the fire could have taken. Our house is on the street above the aqua blue dot. The problem with maps is that you don’t get to appreciate the topography. There is a canyon behind our house that is a fire corridor… if that fire had gotten into the canyon system behind Santa Luz it would have ripped down the canyon to us…. It is very hard for the firefighter to fight in the canyons with a Santa Ana ripping through it. That’s the problem with Santa Ana’s – especially for us when they are sucking the air southwest to the ocean.
I did load all of my old photos, yearbooks and negatives into the car first… memories (and blackmail) first I guess! And then all of the kids artwork that I have saved throughout the years. And then the computers, cameras and a bunch of financial stuff. I left behind my Doug Flutie autographed Charger’s Jersey… and the Beach Boys autographed surfboard. That was hard. The kids packed the craziest stuff… but I let them chose what was important to them. Madigan did have a big moment of apprehension when she realized her 2 American Girl dolls were left behind. I assured her that I would buy new ones if they didn’t make it. We have a lot of work to do to finishing putting things back… and a whole lot of ash to clean up. Hopefully we can get back to normal by Monday when school resumes. Oh and Patrick, everyone asks if Patrick knew what was going on… yes I emailed his .mil account and he called right away. He had to register in Afghanistan that his family had been evacuated… I think that’s why the Navy called to check on us. Apparently if we had lost the house, he would have been sent home to deal with the situation. Hmm… where are those matches?