Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mopping up the Fire

We are back home: the evacuation has been lifted, the road is open again, the buses are shuttling kids to school and life returns to normal. As I gaze out the window on the charred remains of trees, the fields of green grass that were unscathed in the fire, and the fire fighters in yellow and green uniforms continuing to work their way through the area, tears of gratitude well up in my eyes. What a week!

The smoking piles have finally been extinguished and there is only an occasional fire fighter stepping through the area rather than teeming masses of them. Last night we finally felt comfortable wandering through the charred ruins of our neighborhood. I choked up as we walked past our garden: the fire came so close to our house! It burned through the canyon next door to us, turning the tangled mass of brush into a layout of a few charred stumps. The fire burned right around the clump of trees my son's tree fort is in--continued past it towards our home. It made it as far as our garden when our neighbors and fire fighters got a dozer in there and tore a fireline into place. I don't care for the huge clumps of sod marring what was once the field where I thought of planting a strawberry patch. Amazingly, some of my raspberry plants actually survived the dozer and fire. But I'm not complaining either.

It was not a scorching fire: grass is already beginning to grow, pushing up through the charred remains. Some trees were missed, while others burned to oblivion. On one tree near our house, the trunk was charred, while the needles on the green branches were still intact. If you didn't look at the trunk you wouldn't know the tree had burned.

I don't care for smelling like a perpetual campfire. This smell probably will not hold the same meaning for me anymore: less nostalgia and more awe at just what a fire can do. Just one week before the fire started we had our first bonfire of the season in our fire pit. I threw a pine branch with green needles on the fire and we all watched in awe as it snapped, crackled and burned up within seconds. I made a comment about "imagine how those things would burn in a forest fire." Yes, it's still imagination, but our neighbors were here fighting it and if I cared to I could see videos of just what the inferno looked like.

Part of me wishes I had been here helping put out the fire, experiencing it. There was a sense of helplessness being far away from home and not doing anything about it. And the sense of disorientation when we couldn't go home and we tried to pull together some semblance of life was startling. Friends opened their cabin to us, but it wasn't "home". We didn't have this or we didn't have that--things we take for granted in life when we are at home and surrounded by the things that make life comfortable and normal. I have a deeper appreciation of those who go through natural catastrophes: floods, hurricanes, tornadoes.....fires. This was so small compared to many natural events. One week later we are back in our house, a little smokier than when we left it, but hey, what's smoke compared to everything you own being gone? We were ready for that, but happy not to have to experience it.

Three houses burned and a number of sheds and outbuildings in this fire that covered about a 7 mile swath along East End Road. As far as I've heard, no one has been seriously injured. Once again, we are counting all our blessings and thankful for all we have. My gratitude for those who make it their job to fight fires cannot be described. And I will no longer snort at the FireWise ads and literature that educate people on keeping their homes intact during a wildfire. The lawn and fields around our house made a difference, as they did for the house you see in the picture above!

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry about your property. Glad that your home was spared, but I can imagine how sad it is to live among the devastation to the living things on your property (trees and what not).