Monday, April 13, 2009

Fire, Fire Everywhere

A home less than a mile from ours

Perhaps you've heard about the wildfires in Oklahoma. Here is our story. For us the ending is happy.

On Thursday, April 9, the forecast said WINDY. Not, sunny, cloudy, chance of rain. Just windy. It was the hottest day of the week, with temperatures in the 80s. In the morning I took Jules to see the doctor for his 6 month checkup. Orion went with friends to the Little River Zoo in Norman. Isaac and Ed went shopping, cause it was just too windy for yard work. In the afternoon I picked up Orion at a school playground. As we were leaving we had to duck behind a building to get out of the wind. It was whipping dirt at our bare legs. I think the gusts that day were 50-60 mph. Whatever. It really hurt. When we got home I sarcastically commented to the men that it was a good day for a fire. We have a few burn piles throughout our yard and we'd only had one day in the past week that wasn't too windy for a fire. Today was obviously not a good day for a burn. After I made the comment I remember thinking, unless you ARE the fire.

Our area has many undeveloped lots where the fire consumed the dry underbrush.

Our first clue that there were fires was that the lighting turned yellow. Then the men, who were still outside, smelled smoke and heard sirens. Isaac came in to tell me to prepare to evacuate. We didn't know how close the fire was, or how bad it was, but the wind was blowing it right towards us. The men stayed outside to watch for flames coming from the empty lot behind us. Once I had shoes lined up by the door and the diaper bag packed, I got on the news (and the weather radio and the weather on the internet) and found out that the fire was about 5 miles southwest of us. At this point I should have started packing more stuff, but I guess I was in denial. Surely the fire wouldn't be able to travel 5 miles.

Eventually, the fire did travel that far. We were evacuated and it wasn't until the boys and I were on the road that I realized the danger we were in. I first tried to get to my friend Brittany's home. She lives pretty close to me and her home was just outside the most recent evacuation area. I didn't make it even a quarter of a mile before I was stopped by a road block. I couldn't see beyond the block, there was too much smoke. I turned around and decided that I would try for Rebecca's house. She lives just outside Choctaw in Harrah. The roads were so crowded. Thank goodness for GPS. I was able to find an alternate route to her house and avoid the congestion.

Not shadows, charred earth

Isaac and Ed didn't leave for a few more hours. By then were were worried that we might have to evacuate Rebecca's house, so the men went to the Johnson's house in Edmond.

It was a sleepless night for the adults. How can you rest when your house may be burning down? I started thinking about all the things I could have packed. Comfort items: toothbrush, contact lens case and solution, glasses, pillows, pjs, etc. Memories: my mother's photo albums, hard drive with all my digital photos. Valuables: my engagement ring, camera, video camera. While I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that I didn't need any of it. Things would be missed, but we were all safe and that was all that mattered. I think the thought of being displaced, of not having my own home, of having to start over, was the scariest. Still we have fire insurance so I knew it would be alright.

Charred fence

In the morning the first thing I did was call home. The answering machine picked up and I did a dance of joy. My house was still there. We all returned home.

But the story doesn't end there.

Charred tree, charred earth, green in between

Saturday we went to the Choctaw Easter Egg hunt. Then we had brunch. It was a nice day. Ed was coming inside from doing some gardening and we noticed the lighting going yellow again. And smoke rising just southeast of us. And the sirens. And helicopters. I tried to put Jules down for a nap but was interupted. The police came down our street to tell us all to evacuate. This time I packed a little more stuff and headed to Brittany's house. The men stayed home and watered the lawn and house. We stayed at Brittany's house for four hours. Finally we were able to get home. A few hours later the blessed rain started.

Jules enjoys some time with Brittany

It's really sad to drive around the area and see all the damage. It seems that the homes were just catching fire so fast that the firefighters couldn't keep up. They had their work cut out for them just trying to keep things from spreading. It seems that any house that caught fire, burned to the ground. Some beautiful houses just less than a mile down the street from us were lost. The fire got even closer than that to us, but fortunately only hit forest and missed the houses.

Isaac and I are so grateful for the support system that we now realize we have. Friends and family both near and far called us to let us know that they could help us if we needed it. We feel very loved. Thank you for all the thoughts and prayers.