Not quite in the clear

Yesterday was a stressful, eerie day. We had our evacuated refugees with us all day and we were all wondering what would happen next. Will they still have a house? Will our house be in danger? When will we be able to go outside and breathe fresh air? We were all pent up inside the house watching the never-ending news reports. The sky was orange and ash was beginning to accumulate on the patio and plants.

Scene from hell during the California wildfires 10.23.07_1630

Fallen ash from the wildfires 10.23.07_1632

Getting out of the house became the top priority. Marsha and Don have some friends in San Clemente and they promised they had clean air to breathe. Around 4:30pm we hopped in the car to head north. Thomas had work to do so he stayed behind, really he had the house, TV and dogs all to himself.

The air did not clear as quickly as I thought it would. The sun was behind enormous black smoke clouds for nearly all of the 20 miles up the coast. Shining through the clouds was a big pink fireball that reflected hot on a gray ocean. Unfortunately by the time we arrived in San Clemente the fire clouds had joined us hiding the sun behind growing fingers of smoke.

Smoke from the wildfires 10.23.07_1753

The moon was fighting to stay in the sky.

Smoke and the moon 10.23.07_1751

We took photos and tried to enjoy every last ounce of daylight and oxygen.

Evacuation buddies 10.23.07_1800

We were just relaxing and trying to let our minds escape the stress put on us by the fires, until Thomas called. His report: a kid in our neighborhood, apparently without a brain, snuck down to the canyon behind our house and lit a fire. A FIRE! THE KID LIT A FIRE NEXT TO OUR HOUSE! AT THE BASE OF A EUCALYPTUS TREE! Honestly, what kind of idiot does something like this? There are countless fires burning all over Southern California, especially our county, and this seventeen year old kid decides it would be a good idea to start a new one!

Luckily for us, our neighbors were outside and happened to see him doing this. They yelled at him, he ran off. Our neighbors called the fire department and thankfully there was a truck to come put the fire out. I'm surprised they had a rapidly available truck and that all the trucks weren't on the front lines of the major fires. The neighbors were quickly spraying the fire with garden hoses, but Thomas said that just within a matter of minutes the flames were quite high and growing. The police and fire department arrived shortly after and extinguished the rest of the fire. Hopefully somebody filed a police report!

So really there was no escaping the reality of the fires last night. It didn't leave our minds for a second. Between the smell in the air and the other refugees sitting behind me at dinner, constantly on their cellphone asking about Rancho Santa Fe conditions, the conversation never steered fully away from the devastation.

After dinner we hit the road, even though we wanted to leave the house we were all anxious to get back home. Halfway through our drive, in the middle of desolate Camp Pendelton, ash began raining down. High on a hill rising up from the freeway was a new fire and fresh flames licking the night sky. Marsha snapped a few pictures from the backseat and we kept on our way. We made it home safely, sat down and started watching the news again.

We were just about ready to head to bed when we heard that the evacuation notice for Marsha and Don's neighborhood and been lifted! Within a half an hour they had all their displaced belongings back in the car and were apprehensively on their way home. Their house and surrounding area did not sustain any damage from the fire!

The Witch Creek, Rice Canyon and Camp Pendelton fires are still burning today. We have hot weather and some sun, but the smoke continues to lay heavily on the horizon. The fires are not more than 15% contained, so we are not in the clear yet. That news will hopefully come soon.