Diffusing an autistic "episode" is always difficult, time-consuming, and sometimes painful, but this time it was effortless. All it took was a phone call from my husband and the word "FIRE!"
Isn't it interesting how things can change in a matter of seconds? Monday, December 4th will be remembered by many as a night that forever changed their lives. The "Thomas Fire" started two miles from our ranch and continues to sweep through Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, having burned through well over 250,000 acres, destroying over 1000 structures and sending 200,000+ fleeing for their lives. And to date, it's only 40% contained and is well on its way to becoming the biggest fire in California's history. Unreal.
When Jeff told me to evacuate the family that night, we left within minutes, but not before I struggled with the decision of what to throw in the car. Kids knew what to grab, but I just stood there paralyzed. Only thing I could think to take was my laptop and my pillow. Well, that and the family. That counts for something, right? Great wake up call to how completely unprepared I was for a disaster like this. I plan on addressing my new preparation goals in another blog.... coming soon.
Just above our property, as we were leaving, we saw an explosion. We found out later this was a power pole bursting into flames in front of our friend's house, and with the winds kicked up to 50-60mph, this new fire took off down our street and ended up traveling down through the town of Ojai and on towards the beach. Crazy. Below is a video Jeff took of our ranch just before deciding it wasn't worth trying to stay to fight the fire.....
With the family farmed out to dear friends in Ventura, Jeff and I fell asleep in a hotel room in Ojai fully believing our homes were destroyed. (Correction: he slept, I tried.) Throughout the night I watched the flames on our precious mountains above Ojai, and prayed for the dear people who were either fighting them or fleeing for their lives. At dawn's light, the fire had considerably moved towards our hotel, and the talk of evacuation with other guests in the lobby was the topic of the morning.
We were prepared for some bitter news when our neighbor, Danny, called, offering to FaceTime with us so we could see the damage. As he panned the landscape around our driveway, we could see the burned trees, missing shrubs, and darkened lawn. We could also see through to areas of our ranch that we were unable to see before. But then, a clear picture of our home came into view. Untouched. Unscathed. Unbelievable!
And as he panned further up the road, we saw my mom's little red house, affectionately known as "The Red Barn Happy House." Words truly fail in moments like these. So thankful!
Continuing to walk towards the lower portion of our property, Danny found that both of our storage units were burned and everything in them destroyed. When my parents moved down from San Francisco a few years ago, they placed everything into one of these units (a container from the back of a semi truck), and then moved some of their things into their small home on our ranch. Considering Daddy's passing last January, this makes it all the more difficult to process that his memories, furniture, photo albums, movies, old letters, etc. are all gone. Our unit contained similar items including homeschool books, projects, seasonal decor, photo albums, antiques, kids' memory books, etc. A hard pill to swallow. But honestly? This world is not my home. Stuff is stuff. And God is good.
So where are we now? We moved into a hotel on December 6th, after staying with sweet friends in Ventura and Camarillo. Ten days later, we're still here and anticipating that we'll be here until after the first of the year. Power and water will be restored soon, but the inside of our main house has smoke damage, with ashes throughout since the windows were left open. Oops. A few days ago I took my daughter up there to grab a few things, and she felt sick after about ten minutes. Had to leave. Air quality inside is the same as outside. No bueno.
Times like these help shake your world and remind you of what truly is important in life. As I've had to shop for clothes, shoes, toiletries and other items to have for the family at the hotel, the usual things I would be attracted to seem trivial, insignificant. Stuff just doesn't matter. People matter. Family matters. Neighbors matter. And when I'm tempted to grumble, I remind myself that there are so many people worse off who have lost their homes and all of their belongings. Most of the homes in our neighborhood are gone. Tragic! We have much to be thankful for. This world is not my home. God is good. And He's good regardless of my circumstance. He is using this for His glory and my good.
I'll continue to pull this apart in Part B........