I woke up with the alarm at 4:30 a.m. It was music to my ears when I didn’t hear helicopters hovering outside. We’ll never forget the horrific fires about 20 years ago that raged along the mountains above our neighborhood. Thankfully, we were far enough down the hill that we did not have to evacuate.
But this morning, all was quiet, and I sighed relief. I immediately checked my fire alerts on my phone. It was a gift from heaven that the expected Santa Ana winds at 10-15 mph were not as strong as was predicted. Another gift was the offshore winds that blew the fires north away from the foothill cities.
The smell of smoke, however, was strong when I opened the back door. No fresh-fallen ash was a testament to the low winds.
All afternoon yesterday, my neighbors and I watched the continuous circling orchestration of two air tankers, including a DC-10, that flew above our rooftops. Like a tugboat leading a freighter, a small plane led what looked like a passenger jet full of fire retardant to make drops at exact points on the southwest fire lines.
As I type this entry, a report 15 minutes ago indicated that 19,796 acres have been burned with no containment – and the cause of the fire is still not known.
The gamble we took last night was deciding whether or not to voluntarily evacuate. Our next-door neighbor packed up and left. Their relatives in northern California had experienced fires that raged through their towns. From the looks of it, other neighbors were staying put. Another neighbor had heard that the winds were expected to die down by 8:00 p.m. I called the police department to get the latest update -- they confirmed that, too.
It was so caring that relatives – even Louie’s clients – welcomed us to come to their homes should we decide to evacuate. But for some reason, we felt a calm. Our instinct was not to leave. But we’re smart enough to know that anything can change, and we have to be ready. After dinner, I went to the garage, took down our empty suitcases and filled them with important documents and items. Thankfully, so much of our information is stored in the Cloud.
Technology and smartphones are godsends at times like this with up-to-the-minute information available on the city’s emergency apps as well as the county’s Ready, Set, Go plan for evacuation preparedness.
This is a time I am grateful to have a small house. Everything we need is within quick reach.
And for now, we’ll keep our suitcases packed.