Please allow me to share with you a recent terrifying experience of evacuating our home due to a fire that threatened our neighborhood and gave me an even deeper understanding of what truly matters most.
A breath of relief and utmost gratitude!
On Wednesday night, I awoke to my husband telling me that he received an alert about a fire nearby. No big deal I thought. He told me he was going to stay up for a bit just in case. But, not even five minutes later, he told me to come out at the front of our home to see where the fire was. It was much closer than I had expected. There was a huge glow of fire and smoke on the hill behind our neighborhood. Many of our neighbors were outside at 11pm to witness the fire and the possibility of evacuation.
I headed back inside and started to think about what we needed, in case we had to evacuate. And next thing, the alert on my phone comes blaring with a call to evacuate as the fire was nearing our neighborhood street. This was the moment of acceptance and action. Ok, we have to go. Immediately, the stress injected my body with adrenaline to put me to action. It was reminiscent of time past when the ship sounded the alarm for General Quarters as a response to a threat on the ship.
No time to waste. Unfortunately, we didn’t go through any drills for this type of situation. The kids were still in bed as I didn’t want them to be disturbed in their sleep until the minute we had to leave as I hastily packed clothing, laptop (with stored photos and documents), the kids school items, one book, and my Bible. My husband was also going through the house to pack his valuable things. We decided to drive our cars separately.
Time to wake up the kids.
And this is when my emotions swelled up as I tried to keep my composure to wake them up gently. To let them know that we have to get out of our house because of the threat of a nearby fire. They were a little confused, but I hurried them to pack their beloved stuffed toys. With tears now pouring, mine and my daughters’, we got into my car. The fire was now closing in and was right next to our neighbors’ homes.
EVACUATE NOW blared out of the loudspeaker as a police car drove on our street.
My husband had the dog and stayed for a little while to start the sprinklers, and hose down the side of the home. We pulled out of our driveway, unknowingly if this was the last time we’d see our home. As I turned down the street to exit our neighborhood, the ocean of fire blazed right before me and all I could do was pray for the brave, tireless fire crews who were there to do what they do best.
Initially, I went to the shopping area near the evacuation point as suggested by the fire department. As we waited for Dada (as the kids call their dad) to meet us, I sat in the back with the girls who were both scared and sad to say a prayer out loud. I felt a sense of calm.
What truly mattered most is we are safe and we have each other.
With the wind blowing in the direction where we were, the air was filled with smoke and we needed to stay elsewhere. My husband wanted to stay close to check on the status of the fire so we decided to park at our church lot. It was the perfect place for ‘shelter’ as we waited. No one else was there – it was dark with only the moon and stars providing light. As the strong winds howled, we tried to get some sleep.
My mind was racing with anticipating thoughts.
However I remembered to focus on my breath and only at the present moment. At this time, my 7 year old daughter was on top of me in the front seat, sleeping soundly. And my 10 year old was curled up in her seat, finally asleep. My husband’s truck is next to us with our dog and they were both asleep as well. Nothing else mattered but the well-being of our family – all of us with our eyes shut. Even if we lost our home, in my heart and mind, I knew we can always rebuild.
At 3am, my husband decided to drive back to see where the fire was. And miraculously, despite the strong winds, the fire was out of sight. The fire crews successfully contained the fire with one home on the upper side of the neighborhood that was lost and six others damaged. I can’t even imagine. The story of the retired couple who lost their home of 33 years is featured in this article with a link to a GoFundMe campaign.
I received a call from my husband to let us know that it was safe for us to go back. Our home only slightly smelled like smoke so it was okay for us to sleep in our own beds. We kissed and hugged our kids goodnight (very early morning) and they were comfortable with sleeping in their rooms. I was exhausted at this point and got into bed as well.
It’s good to be home.
The next morning as I sat to do my daily devotional – I felt as if God was talking to me with the scripture of the day by Isaiah 43:2 –
I let out a really good cry.
To accept my emotions and release the stress.
To pour out tears of relief…
Tears of joy…
And tears of gratitude.
Praise the Lord from whom all blessings flow.