Uh-oh. Fire.

I woke up this morning to the smell of fire. This is an autumnal ritual in SoCal. It is not the quaint thought of burning leaves or a bonfire which are punishable acts by death in the southland and let’s face it, no one picks up their own leaves around these parts or even owns a rake. The smell of smoke in the fall always means something bad. Always. No doubt you have seen on the news this past week the devastation the tinder box hillsides offer to an arsonist. These beyond comprehension individuals seem to come out from under the rocks from Sept. through early Nov. Knowing a couple LA firefighters as we do and hearing their stories makes them deserving of being every little boy’s hero.

Currently helicopters and water tank planes are buzzing around my house. We have evacuated before when the boys were small. We could see the flames peek over our cul-de-sac hill of scrub brush and watched as the glow became brighter. The car was packed and we were waiting instructions from the bullhorn. It was a surreal night.

A few years ago when son2 was in middle school they evacuated over to the high school where son1 was then had to evacuate the high school. For a time I didn’t know where my children were but I trusted they were safe. I can’t even imagine the logistics nightmare that was for the district’s transportation system but everyone was contained and I didn’t hear of any panicking. All kids were safely home by the early evening although now I don’t recall how this happened.

I find people are very odd when the homes of their neighbors are threatened. They like to go down to the golf course and watch the action at the pond. The helicopter hovers and ripples the surface of the water, the bucket dips in, fills and takes off dripping. It is a side show. Little kids sit on their daddy’s shoulders. A hill can be on blaze up to the edge of the road and they will stand across the street and watch. But what is even more Californian, they will drive over to the street to watch the hill burn creating unnecessary congestion and difficulties for the firefighters. How do I know this? Because the roads are usually still open and passable and it always seemed to happen at the time to pick up the kids. There are only three ways out of my community. When we moved here 20 years ago there was only one for thousands of people. I have often thought what would happen if we had a mass evacuation. I guess the one with the biggest Hummer and 4-wheel drive Suburban would win.

Have you ever asked yourself what would you take with you? When I had this opportunity, yes opportunity, to evaluate what was truly important in my home it surprisingly wasn’t much. Knowing we are in an extreme fire zone I had prepared before with storage containers from Target to act as a ‘grab n’ go’. It’s where I archive our life together as a family. It’s home to our wedding and honeymoon pictures and the pictures and negatives of the boys growing up. When we were packing up that night I tossed in a couple hanging pictures into the car thinking wherever we landed it could possibly be for awhile and would look more like home to see something familiar on the wall. I made sure I had the boys’ something cuddly and whatever was of comfort to them.

As I’ve started and stopped writing this post over the last couple of hours, I don’t hear the drone of the air traffic as when I first awoke. Evacuation is really an out-of-site-out-of-mind sort of thing but I should probably re-evaluate and organize what I would take now. It would still be very little – the picture box and a full sweep of any framed photos. I wonder what the boys would want from their rooms? I would take the cuddly stuff again but this time it would be for me.

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  1. Really a scary thought, I think my computer has alot of pictures on it. I can always get copies from family. My jewelery, not that I have a lot but still. Passport and ID’s, I think any heirlooms or collectibles. I hope it gets under control soon. Have a great weekend.

  2. wow… its mind boggling to me that fires of that size are an imminent danger to people and their homes. I live in an area where we never have to worry about fires or many natural disasters really. It’s surreal to think about it, but you wrote about it so eloquently 🙂
    I hope everything turns out well
    Take care

  3. What an incredible post- you really put things into persepective for me who has never been faced with a situation like this. I’ve always wanted a fireproof box for our sentimentals and valuables, but I’m sure I’d need more room! It’s hard to think about these things- honestly, I think I’d grab my hubby, my dog, my important jewelry, passports, the box of photo albums, laptop, and hopefully I’d have enough time and/or room to grab my depression glass.

    I’m praying this fire gets under control so no more families have to evacuate their homes. And how amazing are those firefighters?? I totally agree with you- true heroes!

  4. I agree with both of you. Pictures, documents, meaningful jewelry…everything else we own could be replaced.
    A friend of mine who survived a house fire reccomended that you go around your house with a video camera and document all your belongings. She wished she had because trying to remember an inventory for the insurence compnay was a nighmare.
    She said 10 years later she will remember something else she forgot to be reimbursed for.

  5. We should all have a grab and go box, shouldn’t we? Definitely pics. I actually have negatives – don’t even know of what – in my safety deposit box. And for heaven’s sakes – grab your computer, cell phone, and power cords! We have to be in communication with each other!! oxxo

  6. Excellent idea with the grab and go box. With a fireman hubby we just have evacuation plans for kids and dogs, but a box for precious things would be even better.

  7. Last week my own home caught on fire (unrelated to the Station fire although we happen to live in Glendale) and I grabbed things I would NEED: wallet, cell phone, sweater and cash and wasn’t nearly as upset as I thought I would be at the thought of losing everything. It was very suprising. Having said that, if we had a few minutes to gather things, I would pick up old family photos. Glad you are safe!

  8. A Grab and Go Box is a fabulous idea. I hope your home and family remain safe. We have friends who recently were evacuated. We know they are safe through Facebook!

    We lost a home (a 2nd home thank goodness) on Xmas eve when I was 16 years old. In the dead of winter, in Newport, RI. I guess we are never really truly safe from fires no matter where we live.

    I have many of my favorite photos on Photobucket, and other places on line so that I can access them from any place. Important items are all at the bank in a safe deposit box.

    I would have to grab one of my daughter’s dolls, one son’s Corduroy, and the other’s Dalmation (stuffed animal)… It would be hardest on the children who are still young and while many of their posessions are replaceable, in their minds they wouldn’t be “the same” and it’s true.

    And yes to Preppy Player’s suggestion of inventorying items… I have been meaning to do so. I have a lot of antiques and family heirlooms. It definitely helps to have everything documented and have list/photos/film kept in a bank or somewhere not in the home!

    Good luck with everything!

  9. I think its sad that it becomes a sideshow. I remember when our neighbors house was on fire, we were all scared for our lives. it was horrible.

  10. A very well-written and thought provoking post. Living in San Francisco, we have always thought about what we would “TAKE” in case of an earthquake. Not really time to consider when this natural disaster strikes, so we loaded our trunks with container store crates filled with necessities. I also have a box in the house with passports, important documents and little treasures. It is quite emotional to see your life’s cherished moments within a small box, but then again, as long as we are safe and alive, this is what matters most.

    Wishing you peace and no-evacuation.

  11. I can’t imagine having to break down my life to what’s important enough to take with me!

    We called our daughter last week to ask about the fires & she had been studying so hard for the LSAT that she didn’t even know there were fires lapping at her back door, LOL!

    I just hope it’s all over before we come out there in October. I’m not sure the hubby’s lungs could take it.