As daylight began to shed light onto the situation, I received more messages and I sent out a number as well to ensure that dear friends and family were safe. We reassured everyone we were safe too and our house was standing.
I quickly realized I had evacuated our house without some essentials. Diapers, wipes, food for Bernadette were not at the top of my list when packing our get out of there bag. I didn’t have masks or water or food or even socks. My friend and I decided it would be best to head to the store as it opened so we could stock up on everything we could think of that we might need. There was no telling how soon the fire would end.
A number of others had thought the same as we did, perhaps people that had fled their homes in the early hours of the morning. Maybe they were some that only had time to grab their people and get out. Maybe they were like us and had time to pack some things but didn’t know what to take. Maybe they were others living in the town we sought refuge in getting supplies for themselves in case the fires continued to spread.
It was an eerie feeling waiting outside the store for it to open. People already were wearing masks. The sun was red shining through the thick smoke. A manager came out to say they did not have many masks and the ones they did have they would give out for free to more at risk people first.
We stood outside for 15 minutes. I looked around in disbelief fighting back the emotions I was feeling. Oddly enough though, in the group of strangers who were all discussing the events that were unfolding, it seemed like we were all there together.
The doors opened and people went every which way throwing cases of water in their carts, air purifiers, food, baby supplies. The store was packed. We got what we needed and made a quick exit to return to my friend’s house to watch the news.
The news buzzed with the breaking news of the fires. Already images of the complete devastation the fire had done flooded the TV screen. Video footage of officers driving through the flames played over and over. Areas that looked like an atomic bomb went off, that had been completely flattened shown over and over again. The fire was spreading out of control with no containment and continued to force people out of their homes.
We watched with our friends and others that had fled our area. We prayed and processed and watched, unable to do anything from a distance. The fires were very unpredictable and raging uncontrollably.
I found myself once again being thrown into a situation where every last bit of it was out of my control completely. I had no control over which ways the embers were flying. I had no control over where the fire was spreading or how quickly or how much devastation it had already brought over our area. It was completely out of my control. It was less than a year ago we were dealing with heart surgeries, another area completely 100% out of my control without a predictable journey.
I sobbed as I scrolled through social media and began learning of friends who had lost everything. I sobbed as the pain seared deep into my heart of what our county was experiencing. I sobbed not knowing how this would all end.
My dad checked on our house several times throughout the day to give us updates. One of my sister-in-law sent me a photo. Our neighborhood was untouched even though the fires flattened an entire neighborhood less than 1 mile away. And although our area was not out of the woods yet it seemed as if other fire activity was raising red alarms everywhere else and no place seemed safe.
Nightfall fell and with it came the uncertainty in intense waves. Things seem different at night. They seem more intense and less under control. More unpredictable. There is less clarity. The fear engulfed me as I laid my head down that night to sleep.
I didn’t sleep much. My phone alerted me twice and with those alerts my sleepy state was gone and the nerves once again heightened. I watched the breaking news report to see if our area was still “safe”.
In and out of sleep, I finally got out of bed to face the day. I looked out at the blood orange sun attempting to brighten the grey smoke filled skies. It was like an image from the movies. Forever burned in my brain.
David and I began discussing what our next move would be. The fires had still raged through the night and the smoke in our safety area was thick causing concern for Bernadette. She is considered in the sensitive group to smoke due to having had heart surgeries and respiratory issues.
With all that in mind and no end in sight of the nightmare we were living, we decided it would be best to get her completely out of the area. Someplace with air that was more breathable. Someplace we could still be updated from but weren’t directly in the path of danger.