We started our long weekend with a trip out for breakfast tacos because we had no food in the house, a condition that has been happening more and more now that we have three food-eaters with us. Bananas don't stick around very long. Neither does bread, yogurt, milk, or jelly. Anyway, all the boys loved the handwashing machine,. And after that we were going to go walk and scooter across the dam like I used to like to do when I was in high school, but found it blocked with an iron gate and razor wire fence, which were apparently a post-9-11 addition. No breezy walk by the lake for you! The terrorists have won. We tried to make the best of it and find a park to play at and stumbled on a nice one down by the lake. People were fishing and letting their dogs play in the water. We let the kids "wade" which, predictably, turned into swimming, fully-clothed. It was so nice and Ryan and I both commented how pretty the drive had been and how lucky the people who live there were to drive there every day.
Then came Sunday night. The nice neighborhood we had driven by to get to the lake had been evacuated because of a wildfire. Two families we know from church were displaced. No one could get any information about what was going on. It seemed like every time I went back to Facebook someone was talking about another fire. There was a new one to the west of us, then to the east. Another, huge fire was burning further away, southeast of our town. The fire was so large that we could see the giant plume of smoke from our upstairs windows, even though it was more than twenty miles away. Neighborhoods were being evacuated, houses were burning, calls were going out for more firefighters and prayer and rain and miracles. Ryan and I stayed glued to Facebook and Twitter, the only "news outlets" available. Our friends were posting that they were safe, but that they didn't know if their house was still standing.
I packed a bag of clothes for all of us and put it in the car. Ryan went out and watered the grass with the hose and knocked down the tall brush next to our fence with the lawnmower. We joked that we were overcautious, but other friends were doing the same. It seemed like the fires were popping up with no warning and anyone's neighborhood could be next.
Monday morning was beautiful and cool, the coolest it's been in months. But instead of throwing open the windows and planning what I was going to bake first, I stepped out on the porch to an eerie pink sky and a strong smell of smoke. I turned on the TV to see our city on the national news, the fire to the southeast had burned more than three-hundred homes. The fire near the lake was still out of control and was burning through houses. Someone posted a terrifying video to Facebook of a street with houses on fire on either side. Another fire popped up about ten miles away last night and burned another half-dozen houses. Two more family friends faced possible evacuation.
It has been the driest, hottest summer on record for our city. We haven't had meaningful rainfall in months. Once fires start, it is very difficult to put them out and they spread very quickly. The suitcase of clothes is still in the car and I'm keeping a close eye on the location of all the loveys in case we are threatened by a fire and need to evacuate. So far we've been so, so lucky and the weather is changing to cooler and less windy. Hopefully this will give the firefighters a chance to gain some ground against the two major fires that have been burning since Sunday afternoon. Hopefully it will keep new fires from starting that would threaten new areas. We all have to be incredibly careful. No grilling is allowed. People who flick cigarettes out of car windows face being arrested. When Ryan was mowing the brush the other night he carefully watered with the hose afterward to make sure the grass didn't get too hot.
What we really need is rain and lots of it. Days and weeks of steady rain are the only thing that will change the dangerous conditions created by the drought. Unless a tropical storm brings us some rain, it doesn't appear that this will happen anytime soon. For now all we can do is be careful, pray, and try to help each other as best we can.