On October 9th at 2AM in the morning we received a call from our neighbor and friend, she told us there was a fire in our foothill community and she could see the fire from her home.
My first reaction was to go outside and see how close the fire was to our home. As I opened the front door and walked out the air was filled with smoke, far more smoke than I had ever seen during a fire. Thankfully, I could not see any light or glow in the sky from the fire, that told me it was a fair distance away.
No sooner did I walk back into the house to ensure our children woke up and we see the flashing lights of our local Sheriff come flying down our driveway. The officer told us a fire is coming in our direction and to get out. No sooner did he finish his sentence and another officer was trying to dispatch him on the radio that was in his car. He quickly ran back to answer the call and abruptly drove off.
I had already walked back into the house and at that point, I knew the fire were very serious. This encounter with the Sheriff was confirmation of that. The look on the Sheriff’s face and the distress in his voice made it clear, danger was headed our way.
When I went back in, the kids were still sleeping and that is when I yelled for them to get up. Quickly they jumped up and we made sure they understood what was going on. Our kids love to sleep in their clothes, after showers instead of PJs they dress up. Finally, their logic made sense to me at that moment! Meanwhile, my wife was trying to access some important items, but it was taking too long and we disbanded that idea.
I want to point out, none of us were panicking, we were simply reacting to the situation we woke up too just minutes prior.
Literally 2-3 minutes after the Sheriff came down our driveway, once again we see flashing lights flying down the driveway. I thought, is he back already? The kids and I ran outside and it was a female Sheriff this time.
She told us the fire just jumped the road we had to use in order to leave our home and she said we needed to get out now and asked how she could help.
At that point, with the information we had available to us we had to leave now. Certainly we could have stayed, you do not have to evacuate even under a mandatory evacuation. In our case, we did not have time to assess the situation and with small children it was not worth the risk to stay put. I ran back into the house to tell my wife to get in the truck with the kids and I made sure our cat made it out of the house as well.
As we drove down the main road leading to our home you could definitely see fires off in the distance and a glow in the sky from them. However, there were no fires on that road, the road the Sheriff told us the fire had jumped. I do not blame the officer, she was panicked and could have mixed up street names if she is unfamiliar with the area or maybe she just wanted to apply some hast to the situation.
Seeing there was no fire on our road we turned back to lock up the house. When we ran back into the house to check all the doors I looked at my wife, laughed and said, “we have to take something”.
Prior to this, we did not take anything. For all intents and purposes we have let go of material possessions, we enjoy them, but they hold no real value to us.
So what did we take? We grabbed our Bible a few rifles and of course we stowed them properly in the back of the truck. Our final thought was about putting a “We’re Out” sign on the front door so law enforcement would know we were gone. However, we thought it will also let potential looters know we are gone as well so we ditched the idea, locked up and left.
With the house locked up and all of us back in the truck and accounted for we once again headed back down the road. About half way down the road, the one we were told the fire jumped over, we saw a huge light illuminate the sky and quickly go away. Our best guess is it was a propane tank that had exploded though we never heard an explosion, but it was a way off. We would later learn propane tanks were blowing up all over the place due to the fires (all of us have large propane tanks at our homes). As we came to the end of that road and made the turn towards town we watched a house burn to the ground, one we had driven by nearly every day. We spent about a minute watching and looking around and then drove down the road. We all said a group prayer for our home, property, animals and of course our community.
We would end up staying at my sister’s home in town, unable to reach them by phone we showed up on their door steps and they welcomed us.
Thankfully, our home and our general area of homes were spared and we thank our Father for that. The fire stopped less than a mile from our home. It was stopped in one direction by a fire break that was created during the fire by a distant neighbor and his bulldozer. In the other direction it was stopped due to ranch land, pasture for cattle that was flood irrigated. The grass was partially green and that stopped the fire from reaching our home and the rest of our neighbors homes as well.
Unfortunately, 187 homes burned to the ground in this small rural community and four people perished. The fires destroyed 16,000 acres of land.
What We Learned: Good Neighbors Are An Asset
We did not need this event to occur to understand that, we already know neighbors are an asset, but this reinforced that and maybe this will help you understand or enforce that.
I cannot tell you how valuable good neighbors are. Some of our neighbors were able to get back into our community before they closed off the main roads. These neighbors not only helped us with some of our animals, but they helped other neighbors who could not access their homes as well. While other neighbors never left the community as they went to help their family defend their homes from the fire. The neighbor who called us saved a family members house with tractors and shovels as the power was off and they were unable to draw water from the well, we call him a hero!
What Worked For Us?
We were able to keep voice and text communication with two of our neighbors who either were able to get back in during the road block or never left the community. This was very important, not only were they able to help the rest of our neighbors concerning their animals, they were also able to keep an eye on our homes should looters come around.
Through this communication we were able to discuss these things and get updates as to where the fires were. We also used CalFire’s website which provided some information on the fires.
Using Facebook as a general user was worthless. Too many people were saying things that were not true causing unneeded worry and panic for many. We did find a local Facebook by invite only group in the foothills to be accurate, respectful for the most part and the information seemed to be reliable as it was only locals communicating back and forth.
We also downloaded apps on our phones of police and fire scanners so we were able to listen in to hear where the fires were and what was being done about it. These proved to be the most accurate and up to date information sources we found. We did call the local Sheriff’s office, but the information did not seem to be as up to date even though we talked to a live person. To be fair to them, we live in a small town and this event simply overwhelmed them.
Did You Prepare?
We talk a lot on our site about preparing for disasters and the end times, but we do no talk about actually leaving our homes. I suppose this was one of the biggest deciding factors in making our ordeal public to begin with.
All of that hard work preparing was left at our home and there was not a thing we could do about it. Were we concerned about it? Not in the slightest. We were very thankful to our Heavenly Father that our family and neighbors all made it to safety. We were out of our home for two days and if you recall the only thing we took was our Bible and a few rifles. No clothes, no anything else.
In our preparation, we focused so much on preparing at our home over the years, we never considered the idea of having to leave our home. We live in a very rural community and there is plenty of space so it is the perfect setting for that. But even in these settings by our account we should all have some “ready to go bag” in case a disaster like this strikes.
Do not get me wrong, we had money, credit cards, ATM cards, phones, a truck with fuel in it and a family to stay with. But what if you did not have those things…
- What would your strategy be?
- How would you endure days away from home?
- What if you had no family nearby?
- What if your home was destroyed?
It is something to think about.
Our Privacy And Why Did We Write About This?
We are private people, though some of that has changed over the years, first with our video production. That was a big step for us in that regard, but we made that decision as we felt it would help people even though we were giving up something we enjoy, our privacy.
Over the years we have learned giving up a little of our privacy for the reason and purpose outlined has led to helping a lot of other people. For us, that makes it worth it.
As I was sitting on the couch at my sisters I told my wife, I need to at least make a post saying “No Updates Today” or I could tell our readers about the fires. The thought crossed my mind as I thought about all of the people in Houston and Florida who just dealt and are still dealing with the aftermath of the Hurricanes. To all of us, we read news about it and after a few days it fades away. But the problem still exists.
You see, if a problem does not hit us directly then it does not affect us and it quickly vanishes from our mind, or we become tired of hearing about it. The problem always happens to “them,” never to “us”. I suppose I wanted to make sure everyone understands we too can become “them”.
The California wildfires have now become the deadliest in the state’s history. I hope this article has helped you gain some perspective into a disaster, the things that run through one’s mind with a moment’s notice in the middle of the night and to realize disasters do not disappear when the television goes off. Disasters like this leave lasting mental and physical scares for many that are involved.
Father, we ask that you uplift those who have been affected not only by these wildfires, but by the recent Hurricanes as well. You have promised, you will never allow us to be burdened with more than we can bear and we want to remind you of that promise (1 Corinthians 10:13, Isaiah 43:26). We want to remind you that all things work to the good of those who love you (Romans 8:28).
Father please protect and preserve those who serve you.
In Jesus Name, Amen.