Facing the Woolsey fire

Southern California, the Woolsey Fire:  It really was a dark and stormy night -- extra dark with the threat of hovering smoke clouds and gale force winds.  Thursday night, eleven thirty p.m., the phone rang.  It was a robocall from the sheriff warning us to get out. Mandatory evacuation.   Fifteen minutes later the phone rang again.  Then fifteen minutes after that.  I went on the web and checked out the emergency.  They weren’t kidding.  Pack things up and get ready to leave!

Soon enough fire crested the far end of the box canyon where I live.  A massive inferno shot hundreds of feet into the air.  A whirling tornado of evil golden fire was grinning right at me and racing to engulf me. Scary!  Anyone who has been downwind from a true conflagration will believe in fire-breathing dragons -- especially the golden ones.  They are real!   Dragons aren’t cute. They are terrifying!

Time to skedaddle.  Plan A:  Open the rear doors.  Chase the cats out.  Panicked, they hid and wouldn’t move.  Plan B:  Give up. Quick, get in the car, drive the hell away.  By this time glowing firebrands were skating up the street, driven by the howling wind. The smoke was opaque.  I felt my way through the worst of it, drove down the hill a way and joined the caravan of cars fleeing the area.  At the intersection at the bottom of the hil,l a long line of cars waited patiently for the signal to turn green, the hill blazing behind.

Inside the evacuation center, people clustered around TV sets, watching, hoping against hope.  The hundreds of people around me were visibly exhausted and worried.  Cots were laid out in a basketball court.  Tired people were sleeping.  I sat with a neighbor who had evacuated on the first warning. I brought her up to date with what I had observed.  Her house was closer to the conflagration than mine and it didn’t look good for either of us.  By that stage I had pretty much given up.  What I had experienced was demoralizing.  I started speculating about the future.  Rebuild or relocate?  Being retired, a widower, and probably possession free, I was going to be free to do what I pleased.  

About four thirty in the morning I went outside.  The glow from my hill had diminished and moved away from my area.  Time to go and see about my future.  As I drove towards home, cars were stopped at the signal intersection.  Flames were sweeping the hillside next to a church across the street.  People were transfixed by the drama and didn’t want to proceed.  Eventually cars started to move, and I was able to break free and head for home. 

And home was still there, brightly lit and welcoming.  A miracle!  Another miracle was that all the houss on my street were safe.  And the cats were very glad to see me. 

All’s well that ends well.