It was 3:30 a.m. I had been asleep for a handful of hours but had woken several times throughout the night. I never entered into a deep sleep that night. My body was tired but something kept fighting me to stay awake.
In between the moments of sleep, I awoke to loud winds and what almost sounded like thunder in the distance. The air was not as crisp as usual and there was a burning sensation in my throat.
My phone sitting next to me on my nightstand alerted me at 3:30 a.m. I had 2 new text messages. A friend asking if I was up. I sat up and reached for my phone, my lungs heavy and my nerves heightened.
I responded with a quick “what’s up?” and waited for a response uncertain of what was coming.
She responded with “Have you heard about all the fires?” My senses started to awaken and I suddenly became aware of what had kept me from a deep sleep that night. The smell of smoke filled the air as the winds roared outside. I heard what I thought was thunder once again realizing the loud boom wasn’t thunder at all.
My friend continued on to share with me they had evacuated their home. My heart sank. My nerves began to take over as I quickly googled current fires and woke up my husband. At the time, she had been unaware the fires had spread to the area I was in.
I scanned the latest realizing there were indeed fires blazing in our area. I panicked inside. I started reading the evacuation orders. As I came across the most current information, I told my husband to take a look around. Our house was right at the mandatory evacuation line.
I asked my husband to grab me a bag as I looked around our room trying to think of what I should grab. I have never once thought about what I would grab in a fire. I looked around at a room full of memories and possessions. And then my mind went to my sleeping daughters, sound asleep, unaware of the events unfolding before our very eyes. In that moment, I knew that possessions could be replaced but my people couldn’t.
I quickly made a few decisions, mostly about things that appeared in my direct vision. My bible, some clothes, toiletries I hadn’t unpacked from a recent trip… a few things that seemed right. We packed Bernadette’s formula a few random food items I was able to grab quickly, our bunny, and my husband began loading the cars.
A neighbor had begun going door to door in a panic waking up all the neighbors to warn them of the bright fiery orange glow that was approaching rather quickly. I stood on the front porch stunned at what I was seeing. I couldn’t move. Time had frozen still, like a scene from a movie. Everyone was yelling in the background but my body wasn’t moving.
Neighbors were standing on the street, others were fleeing in their cars. We quickly put the girls in the car and took off right as another explosion bursted in the distance followed by a black cloud of smoke against the bright orange glow that had increased drastically in the ten minutes it took to load the cars with the girls and the things. I looked at our house as I pulled away and wept, almost certain that would be the last time I would see it the way I left it.
I tried hard to focus on driving, my oldest confused as to why the sudden exit so early in the morning. She wondered why everyone else was out so early, after all it was still dark. We made our way out of town, stopping to get gas west of us. I sat there, still completely stunned. Text messages and phone calls came pouring in. We were trying to find a place to escape to. Our friends were making sure we were safe and helping us make arrangements.
I honestly don’t remember much of the drive except the drive didn’t feel safe. The mountains burned with fire. It was a sight that is forever imbedded in my mind. My oldest began asking questions, she gasped at the sight of mountains burning.
Not knowing what to say, I cried out to the Lord. I begged Him for mercy. I asked for safe travels for us and all the other people fleeing their homes. I asked for Him to stop the fires, to keep them from moving forward in the worst of conditions. We were living a nightmare and I begged God to end it all.
I told her that we had to leave our house for a little while. There was a fire that was close to it and it was safer if we left and let the fire fighters take care of it. We prayed together that God would step in, that He would calm the wind, that He would squelch the fires.
Cars lined the street near our friend’s house. Others from our area had also fled to nearby friends for safety. The cars were all covered in ash.
The sky was dark. It was still early in the morning and the sun had not yet risen to bring the light of day. My lungs burned as I grabbed the girls out of my car and headed towards our friend’s house. We embraced our friends as I held back the tears, the lump had already formed in my throat. I was thankful we were safe but I couldn’t begin to imagine what was happening all around us.