Fire Interrupts – A Washington Fire Story

I will be taking a break from my bicycle trip blog and posting a few blogs to keep everyone informed on my experience during these Washington Fires. I’ll send out notices when I post a new blog. It will likely be more than once a week. Thank you for your patience and interest! Join me in praying for rain!

Wednesday – August 19, 2015 – 10:23 pm

Smoke fills the sky. Facebook has become a steady stream of sometimes unreliable information that I can’t seem to take my eyes away from. Fires are everywhere. I have packed my journals, photos and some clothing. Grandpa has six or so heavy boxes of pictures in frames that instead of moving to the car, I am putting into sheet protectors in a binder. I am filling sheet after sheet of baseball card protectors with pictures of his and Grandma’s life. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but the thought of packing heavy boxes filled with framed pictures for the second time this summer has moved the project up. Our area is only on level 1 evacuation “be aware” yet I feel a sense of urgency and work as fast as I can putting photos into slots.

There are some photos Grandpa hasn’t seen in years, so he and mom are reminiscing and mom is writing names on the back of some of the pictures. Grandma saved a playbill from my 2nd or 3rd grade Spanish Cinderella play. It’s a sweet reminder of how, like my Grandma, I feel driven to collect every memory.

I feel confident that if we get door knocked we are prepared. We only have a few quick items to grab and go. I’m hopeful that over the night God will send rain. Everyone is praying for it.

The town below us is hidden in a thick smoke and ash rains down from the sky onto our cars. I have a headache and my stomach is upset. I frequently go to the windows looking for fire.

I’ve remembered a photo album and some photos I forgot to pack, so I run upstairs to find them, then put them in the car. I finish, in the evening, with Grandpa’s pictures. There is one box left over, but I’m too tired so I just put the box into his car for now.

Inside the house smells like smoke, all our clothes, even the laundry I just washed. Marc keeps giving me updates from the Okanogan County Emergency Management Facebook page. The fire keeps getting closer to Omak. I hope they don’t have to evacuate Omak. Jesus, please send rain right now. Please save our town and this area. Very concerned and putting our hopes in God alone. I will set our alarms for 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. to check for fire.

Thursday – August 20, 2015 – 3:40 am

A knock on the door wakes me up and sends the dog into a barking fit. Marc runs to the door. A tribal policeman says the fire is moving towards us fast from the HUD housing and we need to evacuate. I throw on my clothes and grab my packed bag, my computer and purse and throw it into my car. I run to Grandpa’s room. He’s sitting on the edge of his bed using his inhaler. “Grandpa, I’m getting your pictures.” I begin to jerk pictures off the wall and put them into a box. I’m shaking, and mentally tell myself to calm down. I fill the box and load it into Grandpa’s car. I help Dad get some of Grandpa’s other things. Then I grab a plastic bag and ask Grandpa if there is anything else he wants. We get his two Bibles and I grab some misc. pictures and his Rolodex. Mom hands me two pictures and a bunch of bananas. I think, “Bananas. That’s a good idea in case we get hungry.”

Marc loads my bicycle rack and bike onto the back of my car. I figure if everything burns down I will probably want to ride my bike to burn off any frustration or stress. I take one last look upstairs. I can’t think of anything else that Marc or I have that’s important enough to take.

Mom drives Grandpa to Cousin Peggy’s. I’m so thankful for Peggy. She has a bed for Grandpa, which will be easier on his back and an air-conditioned house. I load Ava and drive to the rental house we’ve been cleaning. The guys just put down new carpeting in two bedrooms, so it’s an extra blessing since we will be sleeping in cots on the floor. Marc follows me in the truck and Dad heads to Peggy’s to pick up Mom.

When we get to the house, I take evacuation pictures of Marc and I.

guy, girl and dog

When Mom and Dad arrive we talk about plans for the new house if we have to rebuild. We take some more pictures.

man and woman smiling

I feel so blessed. The Police taking time to door knock, giving us time to pack a few last-minute items, a place for Grandpa to go, saving my journals and photographs. A rental house to sleep in, not everyone has that.

We sit in camping chairs in the kitchen of the rental house and Mom says, “I grabbed and extra pair of underwear and shirts for Grandpa.” Marc says “I put on 3 pairs of underwear so I’d be prepared.” Dad says “Really, I took off my underwear so I’d be streamlined!” We all laugh. Then Dad says, “Charlotte saved the bananas.” We all laugh.

four people sit in chairs

We decide to drive to the office so we can keep updated. I take a photo at 5:45 a.m.

smoky street

I’m glued to FB mostly, waiting for updates and info. There is a fire map online. The fires look so far away. After about an hour we fall asleep in our chairs.

sleeping in chairs

Spending the whole day breathing in smoke is hard on me, and I don’t have any lung problems. I feel for those who do. I still have a headache and my mind is unfocused. I check endlessly for updates and pray constantly for rain and protection.

The fires still seem nowhere near the house and Dad talks about sleeping at the house tonight. I do not like that idea and tell him so. The guys go back up to the house to check on things. I hear rumors of looting, so they continue to check the house a few times a day. Earlier mom said she forgot to bring her journals. I find this interesting, because my journals were the first thing I packed. I ask Marc to get them if he is able to get back to the house. When the boys get back a while later, they have Mom’s journals in tow. I feel quite relieved.

At the rental house that evening, we set up the cots and sleeping bags. We watch movies on the computers. It’s SO hot in the house. We have to keep all the windows closed because of the smoke and we have no air conditioner.

I fall asleep with a fan blowing on me. I toss and turn, but sleep better in town since I’m not worrying about fire sneaking up on us. It gets hotter. I finally wake up in the middle of the night and can’t take it anymore. I go outside and the air is smoky but so much cooler! I go back into the bedroom and open the windows. The cool air comes in. I put the fan in the window and it’s so nice! Marc says “Angela the smoke is too thick” then closes the windows. “Aren’t you hot? It’s so hot! I’m literally roasting alive!” I whine. “Here, let’s put the fan more on you.” He says as he moves the fan for me. I fall back asleep.

Friday – August 21, 2015 – 8:41 am

Some blue sky this morning. Marc is optimistic about moving home soon. I am happy I can breathe better, but realize this means the wind has blown the smoke away, thus spreading the fire faster. The neighbor beside the rental house sits outside and smokes a cigarette, which I find flabbergasting. What is happening to the whole town, she voluntarily does to her lungs. The wind picks up a lot! I know this is very bad. I pray for the wind to stop and rain to fall.

wind blowing bush

Around 1:05 pm Marc and my parents get back to the rental. They got to the house earlier and everything was fine, but the electricity flickered a few times and went out. This made the sprinklers we’ve been running for days quit, so they decide to hook up a generator to the pump and get them back on, but when they tried to get to the house again, they were turned away. The road to our house is officially closed.

We see on FB that one of our friends who works at an adult care facility said a policeman told her Omak will likely be on level 3 by evening. My Parents and Marc and I can move easily and sleep anywhere, but Grandpa would have a harder time if everyone has to leave Omak. I pray.

6:14 pm – All four of us just tried to go check out the house and got turned away. The road is still closed. Not knowing about the house is hard. If I know it’s burned then I can move forward and start making plans. Limbo stinks! But God has everything under control. I trust Him.

6:58 pm – I begin to worry about having trouble collecting from the insurance company. Losing all of Grandpa’s stuff. Being under insured. If we have to build a new house, will that mean I’m stuck in Omak forever. My dream of moving on begins. like a house of cards, to fall in on me. I take a second and remind myself. God is looking out for me. I’m not special. I’m just an average person who will have to deal with whatever the fire leaves.

The electricity flickers a few times at the rental. I decide to take a shower now in case the electricity goes out here too.

8:10 pm – I’m concerned because Marc said the fire has ravaged everything. There could be hundreds of homes lost. If we have to rebuild our house ourselves that will take so long. I’m afraid I’m never going to get out of this valley!

9:07 pm – As we wonder if the house has burned, I begin to think of more things I had, that might have burned. Things that don’t really matter, and can be replaced, but I will be sad to lose.

Saturday – August 22, 2015 – 11:12 am

Mom, Dad and Marc try again to drive up to the house. Marc calls. They got up there and God did a miracle! The house and shop are still standing! Everything else is gone. A vacant house next to us burned and every weed is gone and all the trees are burned. The neighbor on the other side of us is okay too. Thank you Jesus!

I call Cle. She sounds worried as she answers my call. I always forget that she always cares about my trials as much as I do. As I tell her the good news, I begin to cry. I’m so overwhelmed. It’s at this moment that I realize how much stress I have been carrying. She and I thank God together.

I call Chris to make sure Mom called her. I call Mom and ask if she got a hold of Grandpa. She tried to call twice but no one will pick up, so I say I’ll go tell him the good news.

I go tell Grandpa. We’re all relieved, even though Peggy does look disappointed to be losing her roommate.

Hope Rises.

fire burned around house




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