If anything, I’m writing this blog post for myself to remember my family’s experience evacuating from our home and the new perspective I gained from an almost life-changing event. If you’ve ever been through something similar that moved you or changed your perspective, comment below because I’d love to hear your story! If you don’t care to read my long story about the actual fire, feel free to scroll to the bottom to the sub-title called “perspective” to see what I feel like I gained from this experience.
I woke up on Tuesday morning at 4am to hear an airplane overhead which I would later find out was dropping water over the Creek fire that started in Sylmar. I went back to sleep thinking it was nothing. By the time I woke up that morning around 8am, the fire was visible from my family’s windows overlooking what we call “the wash,” an area of vast land with trails that people in the horse community ride their horses. The fire was past the wash, across the freeway, and only just cresting the top of a mountain barely visible. This has happened times before in our surrounding area and 99.9% of the time, it’s nothing to worry about. This is about that other 1% of the time.
Quickly by 9am it had already burned ¾ of the way down the mountain. At that point, no one was that worried because like I said this has happened numerous times. By 11, the freeway or those mountains were barely visible in all the smoke. Some concern set in as I watched my neighbors and my Mom worry about how to get our horse out if it came time to evacuate. The streets were already getting crowded and freeway entrances/exists were beginning to close. Then, It had jumped the freeway and started burning the wash. Our house sits on a hill just above the wash and we were told if the smoke starts blowing into our faces, into the direction of our house, that’s when we have to worry. It happened so fast. One minute we thought evacuating was unnecessary, the next we know, it’s hard to breathe, the smoke is enveloping us and our homes, and we’re packing things up as quickly as possible.
The crazy thing about fires is they’re not like a flood. It doesn’t burn down everything in it’s path, inching closer and closer like water might. The extreme winds we had carried embers from mountains that were far off in the distance to our own backyard. One minute we’re looking out our windows watching it from afar, the next we know I can feel the heat.
I can FEEL the heat. The flames were still burning in the wash, embers jumping from one tree to the next. I touched the windows inside my house and they were warm. I went outside where my Dad was wearing motorcycle goggles shielding his eyes from the ash and embers, taking a video of what was possibly the last time we would see our back hill or house as it was. The heat was even stronger outside and the flames below looked so tall. Before I knew it, it was go-time.
My mom was leading our horse out of the arena and down the street. She doesn’t have a horse trailer so we searched high and low for a horse trailer that was already in the neighborhood. People offered trailers from all over, they were even being dispatched into our neighborhood but that was only half the battle. A couple trailers we had lined up were stuck on the freeway as they closed exits down and were unable to get to us. Finally, we were able to get in contact with a kind stranger who said he could meet at the bottom of our street and take our horse TJ to a rescue center. We loaded our 4 dogs into the 2 cars and threw any last-minute things into the backseats. My family has too many cars and not enough people so I drove one car to the next street over, then ran back to get the other. The smoke really got to me by then. My lungs were burning, my eyes were burning, and from the bottom of the street my house wasn’t even visible amongst all the smoke. Flames roared high as our neighbor’s house two doors down was burning to the ground. Firetrucks crowded the streets, cars were trying to get out, and horse owners were trying to lure their horses into feeling safe enough to get inside the trailers.
A horse got loose on our street so I tried to help put her into a trailer before heading back to the house to get the other car. These poor gentle animals were scared out of their minds and had no idea what was happening. Amidst all the chaos though, I looked around and told myself to remember this feeling of a community coming together and unifying under trying circumstances. No one was going to leave a horse behind if they could help it.
Back at our house, my Dad and brother were busy putting hot spots out as embers would land on the trees and brush on our hill and our neighbor’s hill. Firefighters hadn’t yet arrived to our house as they were busy trying to help with structures going up in flames. I know without a doubt if my Dad and brother decided to throw in the towel any earlier, those hot spots would have fed off each other and eventually burned our own house to the ground. Meanwhile, my Mom and I left to get our dogs out of the smoke while my dad and brother said they would be shortly behind.
My brother later told me that he looked over at our neighbor’s house and noticed their car and motorcycle were still in the driveway and we hadn’t seen them all day. He went over there to check it out and started banging on their windows, knocking on their door. Finally the man came to the living room, throwing his arms up wondering what all the racket was. He had no idea!! I don’t know how that happens, but he had no idea there was a fire. He quickly scrambled to get out of there. Not too long after that, their guest house caught on fire and burned down.
It was a long night and a rollercoaster of answers. We got a call from my Dad who was at the house and was positive our house was going to burn down. He was sad, but grateful that the things that really mattered were safe. Eventually, firefighters came to the house and told my Dad and Brother they had to leave now. None of us would know the fate of our house for a while. By some miracle, a few hours later we were told our houses hadn’t burned and if it could survive the night and all the embers raining down, it would be safe.
We woke the next morning at a friend’s house to good news that our house had made it throughout the night. Those high winds made every scenario unpredictable but we couldn’t be more grateful. Even through the next few days we weren’t out of the clear as hot spots kept popping up, but the main fire had moved on. The smoke was intense and even now we are working to get the smoke out of everything— the house, our clothes, our cars. But I don’t care. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that none of our animals or my family or irreplaceable things weren’t lost in the fire.
A New Perspective
So many others in the Creek fire, the Thomas Fire, the Lilac fire, they all lost precious animals, belongings, and homes that they treasured. A few hours after we had evacuated, I was sitting in my smoke-filled car with 2 of my dogs in the backseat, my Mom’s car in front of me with our other dogs, my eyes just burning from the smoke and ash, my blonde hair almost stained from the ash. My phone had been blowing up ALL morning. Friends near and far were calling to see if we needed help. Friends I hadn’t talked to in a while were offering to make calls on our behalf to find a horse trailer, my best friends were offering anything they could, people were offering to bring their trucks over to help us, offering their homes for us to evacuate to. Seriously, people were amazing. Even though I couldn’t respond to half of the people at the time, I had a moment to myself in the car and just thought…how incredible that there are so many good people in this world. And when I thought about if I were to lose everything…what’s really important to me? It was an overwhelming sense of quality over quantity. That the quality people were there when we needed them most, were offering their help and hearts, and that most possessions don’t really matter.
Sometimes we place so much emphasis on materialistic things on a day to day basis. We’re blogging about our favorite clothes and accessories, the latest deals on whatever it may be. And so often I really do try to write blogs with more weight, more gravity. But everyone gets caught up. We’re so invested in social media, showing people where we are and what we’re doing and who we’re with. But during this experience, all that faded to the background and I felt SO grateful and blessed to have the people in my life that I do, that my family was safe, and that our friends opened their home to us. It wasn’t life or death for us, not even close. But I felt in my heart the tragedy that so many others were going through. It really made me think about my purpose. During something like this, my days were filled with tasks so different than my day to day. It made me think that when I’m back to a “normal” routine, what’s my goal here? What REALLY matters? What’s my purpose? For me this experience solidified my purpose, my passions, and not taking things for granted. Because in some odd way I felt that if I lost everything materialistic, what would still be standing and strong is my purpose, my passion, and my drive. (Besides my family and animals by my side 😉
Thanks for reading and drop a comment if you’re having a “me too!” moment.