Thursday, August 18, 2016

Evacuation Orders

You know when you see disasters on the news it doesn't really impact you until it happens to you or someone you know. Then you begin to live in this alternate reality of the life you're having to deal with and the life of everyone else who is going on without you it seems. This time, it impacted us to a degree as we made plans on Tuesday, August 16th to have lunch with my oldest daughter Caitlyn who lives in the small mountain community of Wrightwood. It was her day off and like any other day, my daughter Kailee and I offered to drive up to Wrightwood to have lunch at the Evergreen Cafe.

When we arrived nothing seemed out of the ordinary until we began to hear the conversations of those around us, from the cafe owner to other customers who had just received warning of a fire off the 15 freeway and Kenwood Avenue. The chilling part came after that, that the fire is headed towards Wrightwood. Looking outside the window we could see the layer of smoke beginning to build over the treelined mountains to the east of us, and it seemed like it might be a good time to simply forgo our lunch and head to her home to begin packing up. However the employee and other customers, Wrightwood residents, didn't seem at all panicked. They offered us drink refills while we waited for our food. We opted to stay put for the time being and enjoy lunch while Caitlyn texted her fiancè who was working in Apple Valley at the time to give him an update.

After lunch we headed to her home and began the process of preparing to evacuate just in case it was needed so she wouldn't leave anything behind if she needed it and it couldn't be replaced. Since her wedding is in a few months, October, we opted to grab everything in the event the worst happens. From packing up boxes of wedding preparations, suits and accessories as well as important papers and files, pictures and other sentimental items all while the television broadcast the latest updates on the fire. Pretty intense sitting up in the mountains watching the skies to see the smoke plumes rise and darken.

She was able to reach her fiancè and his aunt who are also residents of Wrightwood and they were leaving Apple Valley headed home. Meanwhile the 15 Freeway was closed in both directions and that would mean a long detour for them without taking the freeway. So we continue to pack, watch the news and wait. We were informed we would be notified by the fire department or sheriff's office in our homes if we needed to leave or either a reverse 911 call so we continue to wait it out. After a couple of hours we got the news we dreaded to hear from a text message from a friend of mine informing me that Wrightwood was under a mandatory evacuation order and it was time to leave before the routes out of town became crowded or impassible.

So the work began of loading both my car and hers while we watched neighbors across the street and next to us begin to do the same thing. There was a sense of unusual quiet in the town that was a bit unnerving, no birds or the chatter you would normally hear. I opted to head to the village to top off my gas tank just in case we got diverted over Angeles Forest Highway into Little Rock. The line at the only gas station in town was long but everyone was extremely helpful. The owners were even outside helping people pump gas and taking gas payments so customers didn't have to go inside to pay to make the transactions run smoothly.

We finally headed out of town by around 5 pm when Steven made it home, packed up the final things and grabbed the cats in their carriers, and made our way home to the horror of seeing what you had been watching on television now become a reality. The thick wall of smoke hovered like a wall determined to keep us out as we made our way out of Wrightwood.

The smoke was so thick and black that it seemed to float over us all the way to Victorville as ash continued to rain down on us.

I can honestly say, living in the High Desert I had never seen it look so ominous in the 13 years of living here and dealing with the fires that seem to erupt every fire season in the Cajon Pass.

Now we sit at home and the waiting begins.

Will the town that has managed to remain unscathed continue to do so, or will this fire consume the small town of only about 4500 residents? Will my daughter have a home to return to? How will she start over again if they lose everything? What will happen to the wedding venue that they booked in Wrightwood? For now, we sit and watch the news. Read all the social media sites in our area and of course, pray. We pray for our first responders and the town and everyone affected who will return to some of the surrounding areas only to find out they have lost everything. If you can continue to keep us in prayer that the freeways will open so they can get to work down in Redlands, that the fire is contained for them to go home and remain safe, and for those that continue to battle this blaze whose cause yet remains unknown.

1 comment:

David C Brown said...

The Lord protect and bless you all!