On Sunday night, I went to bed with my usual case of the Sunday scaries. Feeling super preggo (29 weeks), didn’t do any grading (grades due Tuesday at midnight for midterm), barely did any packing for the impending move to my inlaws and subsequent home remodel. The usual ennui of a weekend somewhat wasted on I’m not even sure what.
The winds had started picking up around 8, but that is not unusual for this time of year. I could hear the dry leaves scuttling across the yard as we watched Outlander and I folded some laundry. My husband went outside and moved some lawn furniture. I went to bed around 9:30, dreading my 4:30 am alarm. In bed, the wind started blowing even stronger, and the blinds were knocking around like crazy. I decided to close my bedroom window, even though it was only open 2 inches.
Pregnancy insomnia set in and I barely dozed for a couple hours. I started smelling smoke around 11:30 pm, when I got up to pee. That’s when I heard the first booms. I told myself it was the wind knocking down trees. I continued to toss and turn, listening to gusts of wind and hearing the occasional boom. I couldn’t make myself get up to see what was happening. As I lay awake, smelling wisps of smoke, a feeling of dread fell over me.
My husband woke up at 3 am, got a glass of water and said, “what’s that smell?”
“Smoke,” I answered. “From the fires.” He mumbled a response, but quickly fell back asleep. The explosions went on and I continued to lay there, telling myself that whatever fire was happening was far away. I finally drifted off to sleep.
My alarm went off at 4:30 am. Still smelling smoke, I hit snooze twice. 5 minutes later, the doorbell started ringing. I ran down the hall, struggling to put on pj pants, while also covering my chest (no bra and a flimsy tank). Nothing good is happening when the doorbell rings at 4:30 am.
There is my neighbor and his daughter. “We wanted to make sure you knew what’s going on. Fountaingrove is on fire. We are packing our car and getting gas. Turn on your tv.”
I yelled for Mr. Run to wake up. Momentarily in a daze, we watched the TV as images of walls of flame seemed to race down the canyons. The current evacuation line was about 2 miles from our house. The Kaiser hospital, a 5 minute drive, and where I am planning to deliver my baby in December, was being evacuated.
I looked at my husband. “We need to pack. Now.”
I started by pulling the important documents. We couldn’t find Mr. Run’s birth certificate. Then he went outside to talk to our other neighbors. I started to place random clothing items and toiletries in a suitcase. I closed the rest of the open windows. I stared at the TV.
The neighborhood directly to our north was added to the evacuation orders. I found my husband and told him I wanted to go. I called my parents, my brother, and my principal to tell her I wasn’t coming in. We loaded up. We took a picture of the red sky behind my neighbor’s house. It was 6 am. We left.
Our neighborhood and house survived, while so many others have not. I’ve since found out that the explosions I heard all night were people’s propane tanks and transformers exploding. We’ve been living a halfway voluntarily evacuated life, some nights at home and some nights at my inlaws in the next town over. My school district, in the next county over, finally cancelled school for today. I was going to call in sick, anyway. I’ve vacillated between shock, crying jags, gratefulness and feelings of survivors guilt. You never think you are actually going to live through a natural disaster. My heart is with those that lost everything and with my whole community as we start to recover.