Friday, May 15, 2009

Perspectives on the East End Road Fire

This is the area where the roadblock was set up and is the general area the fire started from a downed powerline Tuesday afternoon.

Many areas are still smoking, and fire fighters are watching these spots carefully for flareups.

Two years ago when the fires swept through the Caribou Hills near our home (as in 20 miles away!) I thought that was too close for comfort. This time the fire came within feet of our home, so our perspective of what is "too close for comfort" has changed! Now I say, "As long as our house and barn don't burn, I'll be happy." Here's my family's experience with the East End Road fire.
I was picking up trash along this section of road just a few days ago. Unfortunately, the trash didn't burn! For some reason the fire didn't burn right up to the edge of the road.

Tuesday afternoon about 4:30 Doug headed into town to take the kids rock climbing. The fire had started, but Doug didn't think too much about it--it was a mile or so from our place and he figured they would put it out soon. The kids climbed and Doug got his workout, and at 9:00 as they headed home they hit a roadblock: the fire was growing and they weren't letting people in. Doug didn't want to push it, so he headed back to Homer and got a hotel room for the night.

Wednesday Doug took the kids to school, then drove on home. The road was open, the fire appeared to be out, but there was no electricity yet so he headed into town for the day. That afternoon the fire started up again so the road was shut down and they began to evacuate past Mile 14 East End Road (I've also heard past Mile 16), including the Old Believer villages of Razdolna and Voznesenka. One kid in my daughter's class got really upset because he wasn't going to be able to go home (the busses weren't taking kids past the roadblock).

I had just planted part of my garden on Sunday (carrots, turnips, spinach, etc.) and, ironically, my compost pile was still frozen; I had taken off the top (undecomposed part) and was pitching the decomposed part into the garden to till in as it thawed out. Think it is thawed out now??!!

A friend offered an empty cabin at around Mile 12 EE Road for my husband and kids that night so the kids were able to take the bus to school the next day. Meanwhile, I was in Kenai for training all week, so I was getting bits and pieces of news. Our landlord emailed us and told us my compost pile and part of my garden fence had burned before our neighbors put it out (there was still no electricity, but there was enough pressure in our garden hose that they were able to extinguish it). I discovered from my aunt that the fire had gone right under (but not burned) 2 of our next door neighbor's sheds. My daughter told me that one of her classmates' houses almost burned (the house you see in the background of the garden picture)--the fire was right up to the outside of the house. My neighbor said her manure pile went poof and burnt right up, and her bulls lay there in their pen with manure and hay catching fire and smoking around them. On Wednesday the burning and smoke were so bad they couldn't see very far, and our neighbors kept driving up to check on our house since they couldn't see it from theirs.

Thursday evening I left my training a day early to regroup with my family. They let us past the roadblock so we could get to our house. Our plan was to get our meat out of the freezer and get some clothes for the kids--they had been wearing the same clothes day and night for 3 days! All of the pictures you see here were taken yesterday (Thursday) evening. A fire engine has been parked in our driveway for the past 3 days since the area we live in, although it has been burned, is considered one of the "hot spots" that could reignite. Our entire house stank of smoke. Someone had removed the propane tank from our grill and put it in the middle of a nearby field, and they also took the gas cans out of our barn. Our lawn was burnt in patches where a spark had ignited an area, and there were smoking patches in every direction we looked.

McNeil Canyon School is the central meeting place. Tents are set up near the playground for firefighters staying overnight and fire engines park here before heading to the fire 6-10 miles up the road.

As of Thursday morning the state fire fighters were taking over for the local crews. Razdolna School was back in session, though Voznesenka students are expected to go back on Monday. Electricity was approved to be turned back on Thursday evening. The roads are still closed since there are many fire engines and other equipment working the area. Locals can stay in their houses if they want to. We just got some rain here in Homer and temperatures are in the 30's so that is a good thing for the fire. Mopping up will continue for at least a week if no new fires develop.

I left home Monday morning more concerned about Redoubt blowing and stranding me in Kenai, but the surprise came from a totally different direction. We are so grateful to be together as a family and our house safe. From all we've heard, it is a miracle no homes have burnt, so we all have much to be thankful for. It may not be over yet, but we'll hold onto the blessings we have!

1 comment:

  1. Wow - that would make one realize just how vulnerable we all are - and from every imagineable direction. I am glad your home has been spared, to date. I will pray the blessings continue.