Yesterday as I was leaving the gym, the second I went outside I could smell smoke.
Sh!t. Was my first thought.
Reno hasn’t had any significant preciptation for several months. We had a horrible fire two months ago when a storm was blowing in and we had high winds.
Yesterday, the fates aligned again with a storm blowing in, high winds, and a fire.
I came back to my office to look up online where the fire was, and it was in Washoe Valley, just south of where we live. I wasn’t too worried until I got an update a few hours later saying that Callahan, a neighborhood one road up the hill from us, was being evacuated.
I decided to go work from home at 3pm, as I wanted to be close to the kids if our neighborhood was evacuated. Turns out that was a very smart move.
At about 4:30, I decided perhaps I should once again (as I did two months ago when the last fire hit) gather up some of our important paperwork. I went up to the office, and happened to look out the front window. I saw two of my neighbors gathered talking to a stranger. It didn’t take me long to figure out they were talking to a firefighter.
I ran down the stairs and out of my house to find my next door neighbor, who does after care for my daughter was packing up and about to drive away. I quickly got my daughter from them, and as I was walking to get my son, the firefighter came up to me and said the area was being evacuated.
She looked into our garage and asked if we were taking our dog with us. I said we were (mentally anguishing the stress on our 16 year old lab), and she tied a blue ribbon on our door, marking that we were evacuating.
That was when it started to feel REAL. About that time, I turned and saw the flames coming down the hill towards our neighborhood.
People often talk about what they would take in the event of a fire, and I can just say after packing up one suitcase for all 3 of us, our 90 pound dog and a pack and play, there really wasn’t much room in the car for anything big.
I grabbed an empty box and filled it with photo albums, baby books, birth certificates and passports. I brought one change of clothes for each person, and the favorite loveys for each kid. I threw it all in the car, and started to back out of the driveway.
There were so many people evacuating at the same time that I had to wait a few minutes before I could back out of our driveway, and then the main street in/out of our neighborhood was jam packed with people evacuating and emergency responders and news crews driving in.
As I drove down the foothill, there were flames approaching our neighborhood from two directions. As much as I didn’t want to freak the kids out, I couldn’t help but saying, “Oh, my God… Oh, my God…”
I drove straight to my brother’s house, and this is what the hill by my house looked like from his neighborhood.
We turned on the news at my brother’s house, and the news announced that flames had reached the high school by our house. That high school is really CLOSE to our house. We walk there all the time. About this time was when I realized I was shaking.
My phone was ringing and buzzing with texts as people offered me places to stay. The one person I wasn’t hearing from was my husband, who had left his cell phone at home, and whose car wasn’t at his office when I drove by on my way to my brother’s house.
The kids and I ate dinner there, and I kept calling his office, only to get his voicemail. I knew in my gut that he was OK, but couldn’t imagine why on earth he hadn’t tried to get ahold of me.
I finally got a call at 7pm (two hours after being evacuated) from a strange cell phone. He had been in South Lake Tahoe (in a snow storm) all day, and didn’t realize there was a massive fire until he drove into Carson City. He stopped at a fast food restaurant and asked the cashier if he could use their phone to call me.
The road in between Carson City and Reno was shut down, so he had to seek refuge at a friends’ house in that area. I ended up going to my friend Annie’s house, as she had enough bedrooms to accommodate the kids and I, as well as our poor old dog Shadow.
I was rather afraid all this excitement might be too much for old Shadow, but he hung in there through two changes in venue last night.
I didn’t sleep much. By the time I went to bed, I was pretty sure our house would be OK, but it was still disconcerting. This morning, our area was considered still evacuated, but I called a neighbor to find out that they were home and people were returning to there houses throughout the neighborhood.
No homes in our neighborhood burned, but over 20 did in the neighboring valley. Reno has been struck by so many tragedies in the last year. Can we just get some significant preciptation and a bit of a break, starting NOW?