Ok, so I finally have set the time aside so I can chronicle the happenings of last week. Two weeks ago a fire started in the mountains near our home. Now, a fire is never good. However, this one was especially awful. Earlier this year we got a hard freeze, which killed off a significant number of plants, shrubs, and trees, leaving a dry, extremely flammable layer to the ground. This, in combination with 100+ temperatures and single digit humidity, and strong winds made this fire very difficult to manage. This has a ton of pictures and lots of details, more for my benefit than anyone elses. I know I will forget most of this, and so I wanted to have it written down somewhere.
Sunday, June 12
There had been several fires in AZ, so we were quite used to seeing smoke in the air at this point. After church, in the afternoon, my neighbor Ben came knocking on my door. He notified me that another fire had started, this time in the Coronado National Monument - about a 20 minute drive from our home. I looked out the door and saw quite a bit of smoke. Oh dear. For the rest of the afternoon I would glance out and each time the fire got bigger. I didn't feel like me or our home was in any danger. It was just fascinating.
Monday, June 13
The fire got bigger and felt closer, but still, didn't feel like I was in any kind of danger. Just went along with my normal routine, but kept a closer eye on the smoke.
Tuesday, June 14
The fire made it's way down Ash Canyon. Lots of smoke. The fire consumed a friend's home. I felt very strange going about my daily life while I knew their house was burning. It was hard to concentrate, I felt like I should be doing something, but all I really could do was take care of the kids.
This is the view from our driveway.
It's hard to tell in the picture, but we could see the flames from our home.
I couldn't get ahold of my in-laws, so I went over there to check on them. They were fine, and I hurried out of there.
These pictures just don't do it justice. I felt like I was driving into the bowels of the fire. We finished up, and as I drove away, it felt like those movies where the tornado is right behind you. I knew this wasn't the case, it was just odd and unsettling. This is the fire in the evening. Everyone on our street just stood in middle of the road in awe.
And another smoke shot...blogger is so hard to edit...
Later that night...
Wed, June 15
The fire continued to creep closer. We went out to Huachuca City to get Starbucks (our dog) neutered. As we came back, the fire really started to kick up because of the wind.
The mountain began to resemble a volcano. Here's the intersection of Fry and HWY 92. As the fire came over the peak of the mountain, it looked like a fireball. It was orange, and glowed from the inside, and it was at least as tall as the mountain was. It was spectacular. I was at Fry's in the parking lot, and everyone just stopped and starred. What else could we do?
The view from our house.
And that night...
It was just incredible to watch.
Thursday, June 16
My in-laws were put on Mandatory evacuation. The fire jumped across HWY 92. They had helicopters and airplanes and over 500 firefighters working on it, but they were no match for the extreme heat and dryness, along with the strong 20-30 mph winds, with gusts up to 40mph. I like this next picture, you can see it glowing from the inside.
Mandatory evacuation was ordered up until two blocks from our home. I began to pack the car, just in case. I didn't feel comfortable being so close to a mandatory evacuation zone. I knew I needed to be prepared, especially because stronger winds were in the forecast over the weekend. My 10 year high school reunion was planned for this weekend, and we had planned a girls night out with some of my HS buddies, but it was cancelled because we were all too drained, physically and emotionally.
Friday, June 17
My HS friends had planned a pot luck in the park. We decided it was worth a try to go, so I left, with all my important documents and belongings packed into the car. Cory had to sit in the front seat so I could fold down the back row of seats. Here's the view from my house as we left.
While I was at the park, my neighbor called and told me our neighborhood was given a pre-evacuation notice. We were told to be ready to leave at a moment's notice. So, we headed back home. I wanted to be sure we could get our dogs out in time, if needed. John came home and helped me. On my way back home I called the sheriff's office to confirm our pre-evac status. They said we weren't on pre-evac. Ughh. A friend of ours (Stormy) called and asked for help packing some stuff, so we headed on over to her house, with our car packed. After we got home, I went online to see what was going on, and sure enough, we had been put under pre-evac. There was so much bad information going around, I was frustrated that the sheriff's office had told me incorrect info. Anyways, I was able to pack some more stuff in the car. We were ready. Come what may.
Then, about 2pm, we looked outside and another fire had started. This one in the opposite direction, on Ft Huachuca. A huge plume of smoke was spreading FAST. Helicopters and manpower was diverted from the monument fire to what was to be called the Antelope Fire. It burned 2400 acres in about 2 hours before it was put out. My parent's house was put under evacuation.
Here's the intersection of Buffalo Soldier Trail and Avenida Cochise. My mom left to my brother's house, and offered to take a couple kids with her, since I figured at this point we would be evacuated shortly. There were multiple car accidents on the road because of the histeria. Everyone was jumpy. By the time she got to Benson the fire was contained and she was able to return home.
Here's the monument fire that night. Quite lively.
Saturday, June 18
We remained on pre-evac notice all day. It was difficult to be ready at all times. We knew when the fire jumped HWY 92 again, it would move fast. I felt uneasy taking a nap (which is a necessity for me), I stayed home, and close to the radio and internet. I wanted to know as soon as I needed if we were to leave. It was hard to get anything done. The winds were relatively low, it was almost the calm before the storm. Weather forecast for Sunday was HOT and winds 25-35 mph, with gusts above 50 mph. I stayed up late making sure the house was clean and laundry was all put away.
Sunday, June 19 - Father's Day
The Church building was in a pre-evac zone, so they opted to only hold Sacrament Meetings for the three wards in the building. We all came to church with our cars packed with important docs and belongings. We had a very peaceful meeting, putting things in perspective for us. I left feeling like I didn't need to be scared. Prepared? Yes. Scared? No. Before we left the meeting we got word that aircraft had been grounded because of high winds. There were over a thousand firemen working, and over 100 fire engines.
The peace from the meeting carried over into our home. I finished chores and started preparing for our Father's Day meal while John went to a friend's house to replace his brakes on the car. We were going to have company over, if we weren't evacuated. Meat was thawing, everything was ready to go.
Around 1 the smoke really started turning dark. The fire looked angry. John was back home and we started taking pictures of our furniture and home for insurance purposes. Our neighbor Matt Taylor came over and told us the officials were getting ready to move everyone in our area out. The fire was heating up and getting ready to jump 92. I looked out the door, and saw this:
You can see it glowing from the inside of the smoke plume. And look at the size of the smoke cloud in relation to our mountain. It was huge. We hurried and got everyone packed. Another came over and told us we were officially under a hard mandatory evacuation order. John took the dogs, I took the kids, and we got out of there as the officials came in with their loud speakers telling everyone they should leave immediately.
As I drove down the road, I snapped this shot:
It was incredible to see. I just felt so humbled by the sheer power of this natural force.
I drove to my brother's house in Casa Grande, and John stayed at a co-worker's house in Huachuca City. Jason (my brother) was moving that weekend, but was still kind enough to put up me, my four children, and my mom. What a saint!
The three hour drive to Jason's house was one of the shortest in my life. I was on the phone almost the whole time, making sure my VT families got out ok, talking to insurance, notifying family members of the new update, and several friends calling to make sure I had gotten out safely.
As we got further away, it was odd to be more disconnected to the town. The Tucson and Phoenix radio stations weren't giving regular updates, and I had no idea where the evacuation lines where, if there were more houses being burned, or in what areas. I spoke to John on the road, and he had gone back to help his home teachee family move out their belongings. He said he didn't have time to talk, and he would call me when he was safe.
By the time I got to Jason's house, I had no idea if my house was still standing even. It was interesting that I didn't really feel concern for the house. It was just that: a house. My home was with the kids and hubby. Sounds trite, but that's how I felt.
John didn't call me for TWO HOURS, which felt like a very long time. I was happy to know he was safe. But then he got a call that the firemen needed help because it was so out of control. They needed John to drive a water truck. So, back into danger my husband went. And again, I started to feel uneasy.
I got on facebook and everyone was saying how much dark smoke there was, and how it was bad. Really really bad. Yikes. John called me about an hour later, they had gotten things under control, and his help wasn't needed anymore. John was in front of our home, and it was fine. Our whole neighborhood was fine. And same with my parents. I was just relieved that my hun was safe. Hats off to you army wives. I have a newfound respect for you.
We remained on evacuation status until Tuesday, and went down to pre-evac status. By then we learned that my in-laws house was fine, although 2 houses down from them, a house had burned. The fire had come to within a mile of our house. The firemen truly did an EXCEPTIONAL job. Reading the report of where the fire had gone, it was truly a miracle. They channeled the fire into the washes, and around the homes, but didn't allow many houses to go. About 50 homes were consumed, but compared to what it could have been...I can't even think about. Sadly a friend of ours lost her home, and EVERYTHING in it. Not even metal bowls could be salvaged. My heart goes out to her.
The fire has consumed 28,000 acres to date.
During our stay with Jason, we had a lot of fun. It was nice to be away from the drama caused by the fire. We were able to play with my neice, Kali (SO SO SO adorable), we got to go to the temple with the kids, out to bahama bucks, swimming, lunch with Shelisa, yummy dessert with my sister in law. Allissa and I got our hair done. All in all, it was a very very fun trip.
We headed back home on Wed. By the time we got home, we learned that our pre-evac status was lifted. What a blessing. The fire is now behind the mountain, where we can't see it. Apparently it's headed for Ft. Huachuca. We have been cautioned to not get complacent, the fire is still raging. We desperately need rain. They don't expect the fire to be gone within a month. But, for now our houses are safe. We don't have a constant dark plume of smoke hanging over our heads, and we don't see the flickering lights on the mountain at night. I feel so very blessed.
Here is my "home" while we were visiting the temple. After all, home is where the heart is, right? Totally cheesy, I know, but I feel it more now than ever!