The phone rings in the dark.“Fire. Evacuate.”
Seconds later, we’re standing on the deck.
For a moment, I think the moon is the sun, it has the same red glow. But it’s only 4am.
On the other side of the canyon, coming our way. The 40 mph wind hits me in the face, hot and dry. Now I’m hyper-awake. Car horns sound, a few residents trying to wake up the neighbourhood. The flames are already big. Not a fire truck to be seen.
Pack up the stuff. Now.
Deep down, I know the house is going to burn. Last time, we saw the smoke plumes from over the hill. This time, a raging wildfire’s in our view and we’re in its path. Wake the in-laws (so much for the holiday). Don’t wake the babies until it’s time to go. Grab passports. Wallet. Computers. â€¨Hard drives. Handful of clothes. Every few minutes, I rush to the balcony to check the fire’s progress.
We look at each other. We’re going to lose everything. In that moment, things become clear. The only “stuff” that’s important is you, me and the kids (yes, your parents too). That’s almost all we have time to pack into the two cars. Fire trucks in the street now, most residents leaving, a few hard-core canyon folk staying to protect their homes. Red lights on the fire roads flanking the flames. Firemen beginning a long fight. Next to the fire, they look tiny. My neighbour frantically hoses down his house. “Good luck” I offer, but there’s more exchanged through our eyes. We’re under siege from something way more powerful than us. Stay calm, the babies will sense panic.
We drive down the hill expecting never to see our home again.
The house caught fire, we saw it on the news. But firemen got it out before it could spread inside. Many were not so lucky, 53 homes were lost.â€¨