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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Santa Barbara Tea Fire

Here is the account of that afternoon and subsequent evacuation

I usually leave work at 3 on Thursday's. I picked up Brandon, bribed him with Ben & Jerry's and went to the mall to buy some clothes. Barry and I had planned a trip to San Francisco for the weekend, we were going to the 49'ers game. I needed something cute and red. I found a great pair of trouser jeans and two adorable red shirts (short and long sleeve since I didn't know what the weather would be like). I got home about 4 and began getting ready for our weekend away (do the laundry, change the sheets, wash the dog). I changed into the nasty "housework/wash the dog" clothes. The faded black shorts and nasty white, sleeveless top with stains and fabric boogers all over it, I was looking pretty (gross). So the dog was washed, the beds had been stripped and re-made (all of them). I had finished the bulk of the laundry, had it folded and mostly put away. At some point I had started spaghetti for dinner. Barry got home between 5:15 and 5:30.

Barry noticed the fire right as it started at 5:45 and we called 911 to report it. I think all I got out was "Fire - Fire". The 911 operator was asking where and all I could think was "Dumbass, I called on my home phone, how many fires are in the area?" I think I managed to mutter "Coyote Road or Sycamore Canyon or Conejo Lane" but it could have all be gibberish at that point. We spent about 20 - 30 minutes notifying neighbors then started to pack. The fire initially was going in the opposite direction (good thing!)

Barry and I worked well during the evacuation. He grabbed the administrative stuff and necessary electronics while I grabbed the personal stuff and animals. While we were packing up I continued to make dinner (who's the dumbass?). I would run to the stove and stir the pot, look out the window and go to the back of the house to continue packing. At some point I made two sandwiches since Barry and Brandon were hungry. Barry had worked the night before and hadn't had any sleep since Tuesday night.

I locked the cat & dog in a bedroom as I packed up the photo albums and most of the photos in a couple of our suitcases, the cardboard boxes kept breaking with the weight. I was able to grab the precious box of Christmas ornaments, the box that has all the kids childhood ornaments that I've been collecting for 20 years, there are even a couple of my childhood ornaments in the box. I haven't looked through it yet so I don't know what I may have missed like the handmade stockings that all matched. Barry got most of the important papers, the video camera and tapes, the chargers and 2 computers. While Barry and I were able to get what was important to us Brandon lost everything. I told him to pack 3 changes of clothes and his video games. I didn't allow him back in his room to take a quick glance and grab a couple of mementos like his Yankee hat or the ticket stubs when we took him to see the Yankee/Angels game on his 10th birthday. I really feel bad about that. My logic at the time was that I locked the animals in his bedroom and didn't want them getting loose in the house or the cat get outside. Nor did I want my son too far from the living room where we could grab him and go at a moments notice. Yes it was necessary but Mommy guilt is still gnawing at me.

The power went out and we left at around 7:00, 1 hour and 15 minutes after we first saw the fire start. More time than most but not nearly enough time to grab a lifetime of memories. As we were leaving the house Barry said the fire had hit our hillside and flashed next to the boat and all over him. The drive out was scary to say the least. Barry led the way and I was driving so far up his butt that I'm surprised I just didn't go up and over him. People were parked all over the narrow, twisty canyon road. They were lolly gagging around, taking pictures, clogging the road and in general being dangerous looky-loos. The fire was way to close for my comfort and the wind was howling something fierce. We encountered traffic near Mission Canyon and spent about 15 minutes bumper to bumper and I just kept looking behind me (the fire never got that far).

During the evacuation Barry and I were on the phone calling friends, neighbors...pretty much anyone that we thought would be affected by the fire. We ended up staying at my daughter's house that night (not that we slept or anything).

We thought we were evacuating for just a couple of days but grabbed the important stuff "just in case". We didn't really think the house would burn down and funny enough we always thought that our house would be the last one standing because of its location and our brush clearing. It was the first to go on the block.

A neighbor stayed behind to protect his un-insured home (and he did). He told me that once the fire hit the boat it was like a blow torch, across the street, directly into my garage. I had parked the Mercedes in the garage and it had a full tank of gas as well as paint and oil stored in the garage. DH grabbed the gas cans out of the garage and hauled those out with us. I thought he was low on gas, it didn't occur to me until later on that he was taking it to help prevent the fire from hitting house.

My poor kitty got the crap scared out of him - literally. My lab was clueless as always and was just excited to be going on a trip.

Here's some pictures.

1 comment:

Well Behaved Krissy said...

SERIOUSLY?!?!?! This is INSANE?! Oh my gosh I'm SO SORRY!