Thursday, October 25, 2007

We are ok. We've been evacuated ... twice ... but all is well with us, our kitty, and remarkably, our house.

Around 1 PM on Sunday I got a squawk on the ham radio that there was a fire about 10 miles east of us. The winds were blowing furiously ... from the east, which was of concern. I called Martin, who was working down in Rancho Berardo, and asked him to consider coming home early.

The fire seemed like no biggie, but I assembled various things in the remote case of evacuation and helped the club monitor the scanners and pass along informaiton. I started working with Jim, our crack scanner guru, and relayed information to the Ramona CERT team who was manning the evac point at the high school.

By 2 PM it was clear that this was not going to be a small incident, but it seemed manageable. We busied ourselves for the next few hours assembling things to evacuate, if necessary, and networking with the neighbors.

My radio died around 6:30 so I lost contact with the club, but that soon came less of a concern. Around 7 PM our neighbor Brett called and told us to look at the hill in front of our house. It was glowing red. We started loading the truck. Good thing, because we got the reverse 9-1-1 call to stand by for evacuation.

No official call was necessary; about 15 minutes later, when I was putting something in the truck, I saw flames coming over that hill. You'd be surprised how fast you can move and how much energy you have when adrenaline kicks in. Just as we got everything packed and the kitty loaded, our neighbor Jesse from next door called us from his cell phone. His dad was still at the house and so was his dog, and neither could get out. so, we bee-lined over there and threw them both in the truck on top of our stuff and headed out. The poor guy barely speaks English and had no idea what was going on.

Luckily, we got him to his son Jesse and they managed to hole up there in Ramona in their mobile home. We headed down the hill with many others and went to the first evacuation point in Poway. We realized that there were people who needed those facilities more than we did, so we decided to get a hotel room near work in Rancho Bernardo.

Step 1. Sneak in the kitty. Step 2. Sneak in the litter box. Step 3. Acquire sustainance.

As we watched the news, we realized that, soon after we left the house the fire swept through our neighborhood. It was already well into the town of Ramona less than an hour after we had left. We watched the news until about 12:30 AM.

Step 4. Pass out asleep from exhaustion.

Around 4 AM I awoke. Busy brain kicked in and made me wake up. For once, I was grateful for my insomnia, because when I turned on the news, I saw that the fire had crept over the mountain range and was now just a few miles from the hotel. Martin woke up, too, and we decided to not risk staying and packed up once again.

The freeway next to us was closed; the fire had jumped the freeway just a few miles north of us, so we had to head south, which we did until we got to Ted Williams Pkwy where we cut over to the west and then headed north on the 5.

Our luck was really with us, for not half an hour after we left, they evacuated that area and many of the houses surrounding the hotel burned to the ground. We left just in the nic of time.

So, northbound we headed, keeping in touch with friends and neighbors the entire time, networking, and sharing news. Many of us live in burn areas.

By some stroke of luck, I was chosen to go to the Women's Conference in Long Beach this week so I had booked a hotel in Irvine for Monday and Tuesday night. We called the hotel, explained the situation, and asked if we could check in early. Kudos to the Crowne Plaza; it was no trouble at all. We arrived just after 7 AM on three hours of sleep.

Step 1. Sneak in the kitty. Step 2. Sneak in the litter box. Step 3. Acquire supplies for the duration.

Around 8:30 AM we were heading out for supplies when we got a call from Jesse, the brave neighbor who stayed in Ramona. Some miraculous how, our neighborhood was skipped by the raging fire. Less than quarter of a mile to the north, east, and south of us was burned. Having previously steeled myself for anything, I wept at the news. We got our supplies and headed back to the hotel.

Step 4. Pass out asleep from exhaustion and relief.

We awoke around 2:30 PM and started networking again. Friends, neighbors, coworkers. We're all in contact and sharing infomation. Kudos to the cell phone companies for keeping the networks up and running! It's been a blessing.

So, here we are, temporarily, in Orange County. I'm going to go to my women's gig tomorrow (Martin calls it Hen Fest ... hee hee) and we're going to just hole up here and pray for those less fortunate and be thankful for our good fortune. The kitty is a good traveller, uses his litterbox (earlier disguised as a file-carrier) and entertains us with his fascination of the inane. Who knew curtains could be such a great form of entertainment?