Tuesday, May 20, 2014

56.  FIRE!  Just 46 Hours at Home, Evacuated for Wildfires

Из огня́ да в полымя́.
                                     Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
 Literal: From fire to flame.

In case you wonder how I'm doing, I can tell you I'm doing very well.  Well enough to handle more than I'd have hoped. 

Well, more accurately, I can report that within just 2 days of arriving at home (46 hours, really) I was well enough to pack up quickly the most valuable small antiques, our essentials (whatever could be grabbed in about 20 minutes by 3 of us including Jack, my son Rick and me), and evacuated just ahead of the wildfire that engulfed our hilltop.

This is me, driving the last of 3 loaded vehicles from our driveway with the starting point of the Cocos - San Marcos Fire begins to really rage across the street and behind our neighbor's home.  This is how it begins.  We have been evacuated for such fires now 4 or 5 times This is the 2nd of those we thought would take our home.  We have been lucky!

In the end it took 5 of our neighborhood homes, 2 at the end of our street and within 1 block of our home, another about 1.5 blocks the opposite direction, and 2 within under half a mile.  And we were out of our home for 5 days.

My immune system and my stress levels holding up just fine after such a test, we were so saddened by the losses, but also thrilled to learn that our home was saved. Not only saved, but in nearly perfect condition and the entire surrounding landscaping and orchard - not even scorched.

The skill with which these California Firefighters work is truly incredible.  Almost a fine choreographed ballet of air assault and ground assault, and the precision of a surgeon's scalpel in carving out what will be saved and what will burn.

The haunting beauty of the photo above belies the abject terror that is a California wildfire driven by fierce Santa Ana winds blowing hot air west from the desert.  Included in the fight to save our home were 22 military aircraft in aid of the ground assault levied by the firetrucks (too many to count) and firemen. 

Here is what they face. This is where they put themselves in order to save homes of people they don't even know.  In this fire, probably arson along with 9 other 'set' within 2 days (criminal investigation ongoing), just one death reported (a body found in an open field, perhaps a transient) and 3 firefighter's injured, none seriously. Wow, huh.  In all, I believe 22 structures were burned in our area, though 5 in our immediate neighborhood. In 2007, the last one we evacuated for, over 1200 homes burned. In 2003, another that evacuated us, 2500 homes were lost.  We were lucky!

The skill of these men and women who choose firefighting as their career is truly awesome, in the deepest sense of the word.  And our immense gratitude to them cannot be put into words. And even with their best efforts, 5 homes in our hilltop neighborhood were completely destroyed. 

We stayed at my son's home nearest our hilltop, and in fact we were able to see our home from there using binoculars. Able to see it still standing each time the heavy smoke moved or cleared a bit, and to worry anew each time the winds shifted and took the fire in another direction until it fully encircled the entire hill area.  We were sure it was gone. Then we saw it standing and hoped that maybe we'd get by with just massive smoke damage but at least have a home.  

Us returning home at the end of the evacuation period, up the hill. And the firetrucks going home, as well. Every hillside is burned black, but they will green up and grow lush again before long. Nature renews itself.

For the 5 days we were watching it, evacuated, I can say I still was a very good HSCT patient, napped regularly as the HSCT fatigue demanded, and in the end, I am fine.  Well, I am still healing, I should say.  

Not what I would have hoped for for my homecoming and 3-6 month healing period's opener. But on the other hand, we are so grateful that when we did get to return, we found only minimal smoke damage and some damage to our roof which will be 'healed' by a new roof and a thorough pro-cleaning of the interior. Minimal! Compared to what we were sure would be a total loss.  In fact, here you can see that not only did these firemen save our home (and many others) but they also saved landscaping around each home so that the feel and beauty of the neighborhood remains.  

Here is our 'heliport' (large paved patio), not a bush singed. The orchard that stretched down the hillside left of frame is completely saved as well.  One of the local deer was in the orchard when we were allowed to come home. Life goes on.

So with HUGE gratitude to our California Firefighters, Military air support and everyone whose good thoughts and prayers in our behalf, we are back at home.

I can't tell you how good it feels to have a home!  To have my beautiful new immune system AND a home to heal it in the rest of the way through.  

We are so lucky!

And SO grateful to these and others who saved our home!

Yes, we are back in our home. 

I can heal in my own home, for which I am immensely grateful. 

And now I think I'm going to lie back and nap, and heal.

NOTE:  A few of these photos are mine, but not the majority. Not the ones of the fire - just the ones of evacuating (up our driveway) our yard and of the 2 homes that burned in our area.  I do not know the photo credits for these photos, sorry. 

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