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.