Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dancing with Fire

Monday morning, Labor Day, dawned cool, sunny and windy, very windy. Things would change quickly.

By mid morning Craig noticed the smoke plume above our house in the sky to the south and west. It got smoky fast and the air quality deteriorated quickly with a thick smoke haze.

The smoke plum settled in front of the sun and gave everything a strange, orange glow. There is no filter on the camera, these flowers were glowing orange.

We discovered a Fire had broken out in 4 Mile Canyon by going online, about 4.5 miles from our house to the south as the crow flies. We weren't too worried though, we've had some close calls with Fire before and had not been evacuated. But the wind wouldn't let up, it actually got worse and it was getting harder to breath. However by noon or so the air quality improved markedly and we became optimistic that things were going okay, there was a lack of information online though. I was listening to the fire/sherriff scanner at this point and heard that the Fire was in Sunshine Canyon, just over the ridge from us. I decided to drive just up the road and take a look over the ridge. This is when it became clear...

It was close and much more serious then we knew and we needed to get out. This is looking southwest towards Sunshine Canyon and Gold Hill Road. There are flames and a burning house in that smoke, it was blowing up.

Another view of the mountain side torching. The trees were just going up like matches, exploding into huge, tall flames. As I stood there for a few moments taking it all in, I was stunned and felt like I was looking into the face of a wild creature, this element of Fire was alive, unharnessed and very hungry.

A view looking back up towards our mountains from town on Monday evacuation. I was so sad, I felt like I had left a friend up there, our home, hoping that all would be well. The rest of the week unfolded in a daze of waiting. So many people wondering if their lives would be changed dramatically.

These images are from one week later, looking down into Sunshine Canyon/Sunshine Saddle and to the south you can see the top of Sugarloaf and in the middle is Gold Hill road. At the bottom of this image is the remains of a house I would see all the time on my runs or rides, the whiter slab is actually the concrete surrounding their in ground pool, the house to the right is gone. Craig and I hiked up to the ridge above the house in the burn area to get a view of the destruction. I felt spooked at first, so much had changed just over the ridge from our neighborhood, we got extremely lucky this time and I felt so badly for those who had lost their homes and are still displaced.

This is Sunshine Saddle. The Fire came through here and left this one house all by itself on the hillside. Some of my riding trails go off to the left and down out of this image.

This house was untouched yet surrounded by completely burned forest and destroyed homes. I can't understand why it survived but it did.

This is what we were hiking through along the ridge. Everything was burned.

Fire creates life, our sun gives us our very existence. We've harnassed the power and energy of Fire and easily forget its original nature, it's still a wild creature and given the chance will run free and does not discriminate who it runs over. I have been reminded of our fragile place within this world and life is wild and ferocious at times and that has it's place. I am deeply grateful that my home is still here and the Fire has spared us more heartbreak, but I know it lurks and is out there and deserves my respect, the fire came within a half mile of our house. Thank you to all the firefighters on the ground and in the air who danced with the Fire, you are amazing warriors to me. And many, deep thanks to all my friends and family far and near who gave us safety, support and love in their actions and words and thoughts. You are what it's all about!


Buzz said...

...dang Carey!...glad you guys got thru that! The August 1994 Hiway 41 fire took 42 homes here. We had our stuff packed and in the car and then the sea breeze finally came at midnight..I hiked to the ridge in the middle of the night...tree bombs going off!..if you've never seen one....well... I guess that is a good thing!

wheeeew! for you!

Kat said...

thank you for sharing your experience. I've grown up with fire danger all of my life and there is an organic fear that comes up from the smoke. Today, Jeff & I were just setting out on a road ride up a bit of a climb when several fire trucks with sirens blaring went by us. I had and immediate reaction in my gut, I felt sick. I thought of you and how it is really how the wind blows.Such is life. So glad that you are safe. It's a bitch putting everything away again.

Susan said...

So glad that you made out okay. We had a dinky little brush fire close to our house and had to help friends empty out their valuables, wet down the roof and get out. It is so scary how fast it all goes down (something I remember only too well from my time in SoCal.) Really makes you step back and think about what's important.