Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sunday Night: Fireside

On Sunday night at about 6:05 p.m. I received a text from my sister Angela that said, "U guys okay?  Are U evacuated?"  I looked at Travis and said, "Angela is asking if we're being evacuated, what is she talking about?"  Right about the same time Travis listened to a message on his phone from his friend asking the very same thing.  I called Angela right back and asked her what she meant, and why would we be evacuated?  She told me that she was watching the news and that there was a large wildfire reported in our area, and that they were evacuating hundreds of homes because of it.  So I went outside to see what she was talking about, and could see billows of smoke coming up behind the hills above our house.

(these pictures are bad because I emailed them from my cell phone and when I enlarged them they got all grainy, but you get the idea)

We turned on the TV to see some news about this to know if we should be concerned or not, but we couldn't find any coverage on the fire.  So we turned to the Internet, but felt pretty confident that this fire was still a long way from our home, and went about our Sunday evening not overly concerned.  Then a little bit later I got another call from a friend who could see our hills from her car and she said it looked like hot lava was coming down the mountain.  So I went outside this time to see red flames where a little while before there had only been smoke.  At this point we still hadn't found much coverage on the fire, and weren't sure if we should be worried or not. The fire is actually further away than it looks in this picture.

To tell you the truth we felt very surprised by the lack of coverage in the media initially, and we didn't see much about it on TV until the 9 o'clock news.  So I was very grateful that I am friends on facebook with a lot of my neighbors, and that I am a fan of my city on facebook because we got most of our initial information that way.  So I would strongly suggest to anyone to become friends with their neighbors on facebook and if there is a page for it, a fan of your city.  This became our greatest link in this emergency, and I believe that this is where the media initially got most of its information as well.

My neighbor across the street is a fireman so I went over and talked to him, and he said he couldn't get much official word on the fire either, but that it was still much further away than it looked, and that fires usually will crest a the top of a mountain and travel to the side along the ridge, he said it is very uncommon for a fire to travel down hill, which it would have had to do to head in our direction.  He didn't seem overly concerned, and kind of laughed when I asked if we should pack a bag or two.  He said, "Have in mind what you might grab, but don't worry about packing your bags just yet."

Within an hour of that conversation I received a call from a member of our Elder's Quorum presidency telling us to "be prepared to evacuate, but not to panic."  I said, "is this an official call or are you calling as a neighbor and friend," he said, "this is official, pack your bags, and wait for an evacuation order."  You see I live in a largely Mormon populated community (much of Utah is like that because well, it's Utah).  So within that population we are divided up into wards (wards are based on your geographic area and determine who you attend church with every week).  Within our ward there is protocol of sorts in place in case of such emergencies.  This protocol isn't exclusive to Utah, it happens within any ward - we had these plans in place in Arizona as well.  In fact whether you know it or not you most likely live within some Mormon ward boundaries. Mormon or not, emergency preparedness within a neighborhood is a good thing, and I'm glad we had plans in place. Even if you're not Mormon most of these emergency preparedness meetings are open to the entire community, they just happen to often be run by members of the church.   I've always been in planning meetings for such emergencies, but never seen them put in to place before.  I was very grateful that I knew so many of my neighbors and felt like we were all really looking out for each other in this time of crisis.

So we decided to head inside (at this point we were outside talking to all of the neighbors trying to decide how worried we should all be) and pack a few bags.  I've always wondered what I'd grab from my house in the event of a fire, and on Sunday night I put those thoughts into action.

So you might be curious just what I packed. I felt strangely calm throughout this whole situation.  With the thought of an impending fire there became an amazing focus of priorities brought into place, and I realized quite quickly just how much of our "stuff" is just stuff.  The first thing I was concerned with was my computer.  I have countless pictures on this computer, and I didn't want to lose them.  Then I had a small bag full of important documents, and love letters, yes love letters and notes that have been important to me from my husband and family members.  I don't keep every card I get, but there are some that I feel are important, and I have them in the same bag as our birth certificates and social security cards.  That was easy to grab because it was already in a bag and ready to go.

 But pretty much the rest of the stuff I brought was kind of random.  I found some photo albums, and I strangely brought our winter coats.  Travis thought that was odd, but I kept thinking if our house was to burn up I'd want my kids to have their coats when it starts to get cold.  I pulled my wedding dress out of the closet, but actually left it because I felt like I had pictures of it and that would be enough.  In fact one thing that kept on running through my mind was how grateful I was for my blog.  Even if my house were to burn down and everything in it was lost, I have so many recorded family memories and pictures that I would be happy with that.  Thank heavens for the blog!  And I felt glad that I have mixed my family happenings in here with what was originally intended to be a craft blog, and feel even more strongly about those recordings today.  So don't be surprised to see more of that in the future.

So once we felt like we were "packed" we decided to go to Travis' parents house for the night.  Even though we hadn't received any official evacuation notice yet, our kids were very frightened, and we felt like we had a close place to go where we knew we'd be able to actually sleep.  Had we stayed here I don't think we would have even slept.  Also our neighbors 3 streets up had been given a mandatory evacuation, and we felt like we were obviously next and it was better to be safe than sorry.  Before we left we knelt in family prayer asking the Lord to protect our home and our neighbors, and all the people who were working so hard to fight this fire.  My neighbor who didn't evacuate took this picture from her house right before she went to bed, very scary.

We obviously live up on a hill, and what would normally have taken 5 minutes to travel down took about 20, but everyone was very calm and polite and quietly and slowly traveled down the hill.

Once we got down the hill we could see just how far this fire had come, and just how close it appeared to be getting to the neighborhoods, it was kind of a crazy feeling leaving and wondering just what the rest of this night would bring.  This is a picture that shows what we saw as we drove down the hill, you can see the fire in the hills behind the Oquirrh Mountain Temple.

At this point in the evening (it was around 10:30 p.m.) we made it to Travis' parent's house and became glued to the TV.  It was crazy to watch all of the coverage of our city and know just exactly where the media was talking about on a very intimate basis.  It is quite windy where we live, and that evening there was a bit of a perfect storm for this fire, there were 50 mph winds that were moving at a very rapid pace making for a very fast moving fire.  In fact they were saying that they couldn't do much to fight the fire from the ground because it was too dangerous for firemen, the fire was traveling faster than a fireman could run away from it, so most of the firefighting was happening from helicopters.

At about 12:30 a.m.. we decided to head to bed wondering and worrying about what the night would bring.  I kept on waking up in the night with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach wondering if my house or any of my neighbors homes were burned.  At the time we went to bed there had been only 3 homes that had burned, and many more in harms way.  Luckily for us most of the damage seemed to be happening a few neighborhoods over, but that didn't make us feel any better knowing there were people who wouldn't have homes to return to in the morning.

We woke up Monday morning to mostly good news.  The three houses that had burned Sunday night were still the only ones that had been consumed by the fire.  Miraculously the winds had changed, and the fire receded back onto itself and began to travel away from the homes it had threatened. I don't doubt that there were many prayers sent up Sunday night from that mountain, and I feel very grateful that so many homes and lives were spared.  If you look at this picture you can see an aerial view of just how close the fire came.

That mountain was not black like that when we woke up on Sunday morning.  I think it looks literally like a sleeping dragon.  We live on the far left a few streets below the reservoir, and you can see that the fire would have had to have burned up an entire neighborhood to get to our home, but you can get an idea of  how incredibly close it came to doing just that. My children's school was canceled yesterday, but open today.  I drove them to school today because I wanted to see the damage for myself.  It was amazing to me how the fire literally came within feet of so many houses, and I feel like it was a true miracle that so many homes were saved.  To me it's a true testament to the power of prayer, and shows how hard our local fireman worked to save people's homes.

As I write this post I can hear the helicopters outside and am grateful that they are still working hard to contain this fire.  I feel like this experience has taught our neighborhood a lesson in preparedness, it makes me feel grateful to live where I do among people who have plans in place for such emergencies.  I am so amazed at all of the wonderful people who have put their lives in danger to help others.  Many of the fireman working the fire left wives and children at home and in harms way to fight the fire.  This has very much brought our community together, and I'm so grateful to be surrounded by such wonderful people, and that for the most part at this point everyone is safe.  This wasn't a weekend that I want to relive any time soon, but I'm so grateful that it turned out the way it did.

This fire is still only 20% contained, but seems to have moved far enough away from homes to give relief to so many people.  My neighbors who were given a mandatory evacuation have still been unable to get into their homes since Sunday night.  One of my good friends had gone with her family to her in-laws for dinner before the fire threatened, and haven't been able to get back into their home since.  There are police barricades above us in that neighborhood because there are still some hot spots, and the weather today is supposed to again be windy.  But we feel pretty safe, and are still praying for the fire to be contained.  There is rain in the forecast tomorrow, and we are hoping that will help them out in the containment efforts.


Jennifer Woodbury said...

Wow, what an experience. So glad your family and home are safe and sound!

Megan B ♥ said...

"Fireside". CLEVER :) I stole your flaming valley picture.

Kate said...

Reading this gave me chills! I am glad that you guys are safe and sound!

Angela said...

So happy you're all okay!

Dusty said...

Oh my gosh Nancy that is crazy. I seriously got chills reading this. Fire has always scared me. Glad that everything ended up ok.

Becky said...

Heavens! Harrowing experience. . .that last picture that shows how the fire got to the edge of so many homes is truly amazing! What a miracle. I am so glad you felt calm during the whole thing and hope it all gets good and contained very soon. I was worried about your kids. . . Praying for rain for you soon!!


Maddie Bagley said...

SCARY!!!!!! Glad you guys are ok!! :)

Lynette @ My Craft Discovery said...

Wow! I'm glad you guys are safe! How scary!

Joy said...

Oh wow! I love this post (scary as it is) because I kept hearing about this, but didn't really see anything. You documented it well. SO glad you are safe!

Steph said...

So glad you are all okay. What a scary, but humbling experience. I am glad you told us what items you took and contemplated taking...I always wonder why I keep my wedding dress!

You have some amazing pictures, but that one with the temple is priceless!

I haven't been on FB for a long time, but maybe I should go back on. After all, this is how my sister found out about the fire and called me to see if you were ok. So glad you are:)

abby said...

i've been thinking about you guys. glad you got to go home and all is well in your neighborhood. the pictures are amazing. we are still evacuated. blech. we were at our friends' house for dinner that night and when we left at 5 the fire didn't seem like a big deal. obviously it was and we had to BEG (and take some back roads) to get to our house and grab some clothes that night. but now even the begging won't work. crazy experience!

Ashley said...

Wow! That is so scary. I heard a mention about a fire in SLC, but had no idea it was so close to you guys. So glad everything is okay. It's amazing how little "things" mean in a time like that.

The Peach.... said...

I am so glad we got some rain today, hopefully that helped!!! That picture totally DOES look like a sleeping dragon! Scary!
And PS....we could see the flames clear over in Holladay! We were like, WHAT THE HE--!!!

pam said...

We too got little snippets of news about a wild fire close to SLC but for some reason I thought it was north of SLC so figured it would be in the Bountiful area. It really does appear to have been miraculous intervention that prevented many families from losing their homes. So glad you are all O.K. We are alive and well. Right now we are in New Brunswick. Tomorrow going to P.E.I. But it is really late. Maybe your dad sent an email with a few more details. We pray for continued blessings on all while we are away.

Tampa Real Estate said...

Thanks to god that all you guys are safe but also i think it was a thrilling experience for all you guys.I think you also make it lifelong memory experience by clicking very real photos of the fire.

kimber said...

Wowza, I'm glad everyones ok. That was a CLOSE call, probably too close for comfort. I always say, if I lost everything I would be so grateful that at leaste I would always have my blog.