Fire Interrupts – A Washington Fire Story – part 2

Sunday – August 23, 2015 – 12:13 pm

Last night, Mom and Dad stayed up at the house, while Marc and I stayed in the rental. Now I know why Dad was chomping at the bit to get back into his own bed. He has a mother-in-law cot. You know the ones with an uncomfortable bar across the middle of it guaranteeing your relative wont stay long.

After Marc and I woke up this morning, we ate breakfast and tried to call Mom. No answer. We call mom 3 more times while we are eating and getting ready. Still no answer. Marc sees on Facebook that the Hwy to our house is closed again. We decide to try anyway, because they sometimes let local traffic through.

As we drive up to the road block, we pull to the side. There is traffic coming down the hill and big trucks entering traffic from the right. The guys at the road block have been so kind, showing genuine concern for the homeowners. Marc and Dad have gone up the road so much they are now recognized. They tell us the road was closed earlier but is now open to local traffic. They put an orange check mark on our vehicle so they don’t have to check our ID every time we go up the hill.

The drive to the house is so smoky, it looks like a thick fog! It’s my first time here since the fire. I look out at the hills and see where the fire skipped whole sections and ravaged others. The fire jumped across the highway in some sections which shows how fast the wind was blowing. As we pull into our driveway I see the trees lining the driveway are burned over ½ way up. The needles are permanently posed to remind us of the power of the fire. They have turned from green to yellow and frozen sideways with the fire’s burning wind.

burnt pine trees

My camera battery is flashing red. I take pictures until it runs out. When I get inside, mom is emptying the fridge. The electricity went out Friday around noon, so almost all the food in our two fridges and freezer has gone bad. Mom might be over cautious, but we don’t have any internet to google how long it takes for certain foods to go bad, so we err on the cautious side, throwing out hundreds of dollars worth of food.

Peggy and Grandpa drive up to survey the damage and the obvious miracle. Some of the telephone poles are hanging by the wires because the bottoms have burned away. The smoke is thick enough to block our view of anything over a few hundred yards and after talking to Grandpa outside for about 5 minutes my throat is hurting and my head is aching. I say another prayer for rain.

There is so much damage over the whole state we have no idea when we will get electricity again. We have a small family meeting to decide what we will do. We have two generators providing us with partial electricity, running water, flushing toilets, TV and internet. What we don’t have is a working dryer, lights upstairs, hot water, stove, ice or any freezer food. We can probably work the toaster or microwave one at a time. I forgot to ask the guys about the dishwasher. It’s much more inconvenient than it sounds, but we are so blessed!

Now I get to tell you the exciting part of the story. The part that still blows my mind. We have to go back several hours, I’m not sure of the exact time. (the photo below is a before and after of the hill behind the house)

before and after fire photo

 

The fire is raging on the hillside, and is nearing the hill behind our house. In town, we can’t see any of this because the smoke is so thick over the town, we have no visuals of the burning hills around us. It’s like knowing there is danger near you, but never being able to pin down its location.

The fire is consuming everything in its path and is picking up speed. The wind is gusting up to 40 miles per hour. We are later told that at this moment the white Fire Engine #22 from Douglas County meets the police chief on the Hwy near our house. They are ready to fight fire but aren’t sure where they are wanted or needed. The Police Chief says “pick a driveway, there’s one.” It’s a brown house with a green roof and it happens to be ours. They drive the fire engine right into our drive way. Back at the rental house, I pray frequently, but have no idea that this is the hour that my prayers are being answered. The very hour that my miracle is taking place.

The fire consumes the vacant house across the gully, that we have been calling Cheryl’s house, leaving a piles of ashes and the chimney.

neighbors house

One of the firemen runs to our tractor at the edge of the property and happens to think to look for a key. A few days ago Mom told Dad he might want to take the key out of the ignition because when the grandsons visit they might lose it, but it slipped his mind and he never removed it. The fireman sees the key in the tractor’s ignition. He starts the ignition and drives it into our driveway saving the old girl.

At the same time the other firemen are cutting low limbs off trees and mowing down weeds near the house. Expertly moving dirt and spraying water as the fire bursts up the hill with destruction it’s only goal. These firemen bravely risk their lives to fight for our house. It seems a little crazy to me as our house’s value is not even a portion of the value of these men’s lives, but they fight anyway. The heat is intense, but they are at their best stopping every assault the fire makes at the house. The fire circles the house and claims a pile of insulation in the driveway. It burns a lawn mower and wheel barrow and begins to come down the backside of the hill toward the garage. The blowing wind sends three huge embers falling onto the lawn in front of the garage. The fire attempts to crawl up the lawn to the house, but all its moves are countered. Finally it runs out of fuel and moves on, leaving an ashy trail of evidence.

I know that if God had not brought us several heroes on a white fire engine our house would not be standing today. It’s a miracle!

I was prepared to lose everything left in the house, because it is just stuff after all, but thanks to the valiant efforts of Engine #22, I don’t have to face that reality. You boys are heroes! Thank you!

(This story is my version of events based on evidence at the scene and 2nd and 3rd person information as I wasn’t actually watching the firemen fight the fire).

 

 

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