Thursday, August 16, 2012

Well, that was exciting; but no photos

And there are no photos because I had taken my camera to the store Tuesday to download some photos I took Monday and then totally forgot I had my camera at the store when I hauled a** out back up the hill when I heard there was a fire way too close that was likely headed our way. Nuts--I could have had some spectacular pictures of the planes dropping water and chemical and the smoke billowing up and all that was going on. Just nuts.

So, I was there in the store shortly after 1:15pm, when a customer came in to say she just saw a fire start up in Temecula. When I tried to get her to pinpoint the location and could not as her grasp of geography was hazy, I called a neighbor. He went outside, took a look, ran back in & called me saying "Holy Sh**, it is way too close and it is huge." I started closing down, packing up & hit the road shortly after 1:30. I was scared that there would be road closure that I would have to try to talk my way through, but it was clear. As I drove up the one road, I could clearly see where the fire was and where it was heading. And it was moving fast--really really fast. At this point, it was doubling in size every few minutes.

I got home, changed clothes, got the phone & called my neighbor to tell him I was here & what I had seen from the road. Other neighbors called me. This year, my place is the cleanest and the most brush and dried weed free it has ever been. I have poured many dollars into handymen to do the work. And I was now blessing every penny of it. Yes, there is still more to be done, but I was really happy with the baldness of my 10 acres right at that moment. I also, last year, had a handyman put a fine mesh screen on the horse barn under the eaves down to the outside walls, to close that huge ember sucking space. That had not been cheap, but I was blessing that at the moment. With a years' worth of hay currently in the barn, that area need to be really clean and down to the dirt; and it was thanks to two other handymen doing the work for me this summer.

Knowing that the electric power would go at some point because even if the fire missed us, it was heading towards our feeder lines, I filled up all the water troughs to the brim and then filled up an extra trough by the house as a reservoir for flushing toilets & washing dishes & watering my house gardens. I had also goosed the thermostat down in the house to get the AC going as the house was at 83 when I got home at 2 pm. We lost power at 3 pm. By this point, it looked like the fire would be missing us. Our prevailing afternoon winds are out of the southwest, so the fire was being pushed somewhat to the east of north. North would have brought the fire right over the top of us. It was also apparent that the fire fighters had made a stand up on Stanley Road to keep the fire to the east of that, where it is not nearly so populated. The fire was moving very fast still and spreading eastwards and some westwards, but truly racing northeast.

With power gone, I opened the generator house and got the generator going, thanking myself for the foresight to have a handyman service it back in the spring. We found out that the big battery that runs the push button starter had died of old age. It cost $90 to have it ordered in, but was worth every penny as I cannot start the generator off the pull rope. Heck, the guys can barely start it that way. Generator going, I got out the extension cords & hooked up the refrigerator in the house and the portable cooler to sit by. I got out the emergency Princess phone that needs no external source of power, & hooked it up. That phone just kept ringing as we called each other back & forth and people outside called to check when they saw the smoke or heard the news. I sat in the warming-up house(it was about 100 outside) and watched the multitude of planes and copters dropping water and chemical on the fire. I was startled to see two military green planes dropping a huge amount of the famous orange chemical. I later learned that those were from the National Guard. I did not know the Nat'l Guard had fire fighting capability--how cool that is. Cal Fire really threw a lot at this fire--fleets of planes & choppers, dozers, personal, it was all out there. But then, they did not want it jumping Stanley Rd & getting into a more populated area or getting up the mountains into the trees and the mountain towns.

By early evening, our concern was that the night time breeze comes out of the northeast and could push the fire back onto us. We watched the glow in the sky as the flames reflected off the smoke. At 8pm, I was amazed when the power came back on. How excellent for Anza Electric! I had talked with them earlier and was told they had all their crews in the fire area and would get power back as soon as the fire fighters allowed them to do so. So Cal Ed would have shut down earlier and left it off forever. But not Anza! It sure was quiet once the generator was turned off. I love that thing, but the noise is just too much.

During the night, the fire started to go down and by morning things were much better. Most of the air support was gone now, not being needed and some ground crews got to go home. The final tally was about 3000 acres, 4 structures (including the 2 story house shown on the news), 3 injuries (1 civilian critical & 2 minor to firefighters), at least the last tally I saw and I haven't yet checked the final final tally.

Was I nervous--you betcha! I was scared driving home but once up the road clear of road closures, I relaxed a lot. The one neighbor said we all sounded like we were doing Speed as we were all nervous and tended to babble. He also said that the true hill folks sounded not so bad as the flatlanders who tended to be running in circles yelling. But this time, the fire missed us. And so we continue to get ready for the next one.

1 comment:

quietann said...

yeow! I wondered, after I called you, if the fire had doubled back.

Good on you for being prepared -- I know it's a lot of work for you and money to others.

We have a generator, but it's mostly used in the winter, when a heavy storm can knock over trees and power lines. We start it up about twice in a typical winter and usually have to run it for anything from a few hours to a few days.