Monday, August 25, 2008

Fire on the Mountain

I realize it's a bit redundant, but wildfire is wild. When you get the word that a wildfire might be threatening your home, it's funny how quickly you can assess what's really important and what isn't.

So, just in case you are anxious for the whole story, here it is so far: I was at work today around noon thirty in a lunch meeting on the top floor of our shiny new corporate building. We have a beautiful view of the South Valley from that boardroom. We were reviewing a corporate video and focused on the minutia of it when I heard the word fire being passed around the table in hushed tones. We tried not to get distracted by the plume of smoke spreading across our serene view of the mountains Southeast of us. I thought to myself that it looked uncomfortably close to MY mountain, but it was hard to tell from our vantage point. The meeting continued and I made an effort not to watch as the flames got more and more apparent and the smoke higher. By the time I got back to my office at 2 p.m. I had eight missed calls. The first SunCrest neighbor call I returned was my friend Bonnie asking me if there was anything I wanted to get from my house. I've thought about that question in very hypothetical terms, but I could feel the panic rising as I quickly started doing a mental ranking.

1. The cat.
2. Umm, really who cares. Maybe some pictures.
3. That random candle holder and my Kirby vacuum? Nope. Right back to who cares.

But the thought of Captain Casey's pitiful cry as he burned up in my house had me racing up the hill to "save the day." With just one tiny, quick little stop for gelato with my friend DeLaina. (Obviously didn't feel that urgent.)
At first the fire looked extremely far away, but then as I got farther up the mountain it felt closer and closer until I pulled into my driveway and could see the flames from there. I knew in my head that it was probably farther away than it looked, but I've also had my fair share of California wildfire indoctrination. It still made my heart race and I was too mesmerized by the possibility of jumping, crazy, wildfire to leave my house. If celebrity homes can burn up, what's stopping mine from turning into cinders? My neighbors just over the hill had hosed down their yard, packed their necessities, and headed down the mountain to the in-laws' house.
The next call I took was from my friend Rob congratulating me because I won't have to worry about unchecked consumerism any more. "Just wanted you to know your experiment will be rendered useless when this fire burns your house down," he said, thinking he was extremely funny.
The third call was another friend just making sure I was okay. He was watching the mountains and it looked to him like all of SunCrest was going up in flames.

Seriously? Is this really helping?

Watching the news didn't help much either. They kept playing the most dramatic footage over and over and talking about mandatory evacuations and stranded hikers. I stood on my front porch, transfixed by the scene, watching the huge tanker planes drop thick fire retardant in an orange line down the mountain.

Now that the sun has set, the bright red flames stand out even more. They are comfortably far away and unnervingly close at the same time. But I'll spend at least one more night safe in my bed. I guess that's about all any of us can really hope for anyway.

8 comments:

KL said...

Times like these you not only evaluate what you need from your house, but realize the someone is there on the mountain trying to protect your house. The great and noble wildfire guys. Never really thought to much about how they sacrafice their lives everyday for someone in the US; not until my husband became one. So regardless of WHERE the fire is, if he's out there, my heart feels the same way as yours ;) Hope they get the fire contained ASAP!

lisa-marie said...

I'm so happy to hear all is well with the house and more importantly you and Casey.

Baird Family said...

I watched the fire burn from my home. It made me think if I had ten minutes to get out what would I grab. I decided to make a pile just in case. The only things I wanted were my photo albums. I kept going around saying I could use a new one of those. Not that I would want my house to burn but I wouldn't have a problem shopping for all new things. I could do an opposite experiment and buy one thing a day!

Christensen Family said...

I felt the same way about what to take out of the house! I decided to make a 10 minute list so that next time I'll grab important stuff like birth certificates and bank account numbers. But when it came to stuff...it all seems replaceable.

TravelByTurtle said...

Ah, writers and accuracy. I did not say "Just wanted you to know your experiment will be rendered useless when this fire burns your house down," he said, thinking he was extremely funny.
Wasn't thinking I was funny, just pointing out I didn't know which would be the better result. Your house being gone, or you getting to continue your year-long experiment. (not counting the cat of course)

Olivia said...

KL: I totally agree. Those guys (and gals) are heroes for sure. My sister was on a helitack team, rappeling out of helicopters into fires, for years and I never stopped worrying about her. They don't get enough thanks and appreciation.

Amy and Jen: Hopefully we won't have to worry about that again, but it sure does make it clear what is really important.

Rob: I can promise you, this experiment is a much better option than my house burning down. And, as for accuracy, I think that quote was accurate. I just didn't realize you weren't smiling when you said it!

DeLaina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DeLaina said...

It's all about perspective. I was at Command Central within 15 minutes of the fire starting, and could see there was zero threat to SunCrest as long as the winds kept blowing north. Once I drove home, around 3:00, I could completely understand how SunCrest residents, and anyone in UT Cty thought that SunCrest was on fire. The smoke was so bad, and you could see the flames on the southern edge of the fire. It did look a lot closer than it actually was, but still, pretty scary stuff!

I'm glad everyone is safe, and I'm grateful for firefighters and police who risk their own lives to save ours. Let's pray that the upcoming storms don't create hazardous lanslide conditions for the residents below the burned areas...they've been through enough.