Rescued from Hillside Fires

How life can change in an instant.

Two days ago, on a Friday, my husband and I were calmly working in our downstairs studio when a friend’s phone call caught us by surprise.

“Are you guys being evacuated?” he asked.

“What?” we laughed.  “What on earth for?”

“There’s a fire down the hill from you, at the Unity Church,” he explained.  “It’s all over the news.”

We ran upstairs to our living room with its huge windows overlooking our hills.  Our entire canyon was enveloped in billows of angry grey smoke!  We rushed onto the balcony for a closer view, but the fumes were so toxic we quickly scuttled back inside.

The scene was tense.  Firefighter helicopters were thundering overhead filling their bellies with water from a reservoir at the top of our mountain and dumping it on several burning areas about a mile from us.  From our living room we could not see the flames, but they were visible from outside the house just a few feet down the road.  The fire was just across the hill!  We knew that sparks could suddenly

jump, and that the only physical barrier that separated our hill from the flames was a road at the bottom of the canyon.

We phoned our neighbor, a cool-headed engineer who’d lived in the neighborhood for many years.

To our surprise he said, “I’m packing!”

“Has this ever happened to you before?” we asked.

“Nope!” he replied.

Wow!  It was hard to accept, but our home really was in danger!

The last thing I wanted to do is leave my house– I wanted to stay and protect it.  But how?  It was a mute point because the city called announcing that we were being evacuated.  Seconds later, the police showed up and urged us to get out quickly.

Reluctantly, we began to disconnect computers and hard drives, we pulled out suitcases, grabbed passports, important documents, valuables, clothes…where were those family photos again? What might we be forgetting?  And oh, yes!  We had four cats to corral into cages so they could come with us.  Thankfully, the local Humane Society had offered to temporarily take animals, so we knew they’d be safe until we figured out what to do.

We were in our driveway with both vehicles stuffed with suitcases, boxes of all sizes and four protesting felines, when a second neighbor stopped by.

“You know, once you evacuate, you won’t be allowed back for several days.”

“For days?”  we exclaimed.  “Oh, no!  We didn’t bring enough clothes!”

Running back inside, we stuffed yet another suitcase with many options- for meetings, interviews, work…did we have everything now?

Dragging it all upstairs and into my SUV, we saw the engineer next door standing in his driveway.

“I’m going to wait until the last minute,”  he told us.  We knew the police felt that jumping sparks were the biggest danger to our homes.  So, we sprayed water on our roofs, turned on the sprinklers in our gardens, then held hands and prayed for safety of the whole area, for protection of life and property, for the firefighters to have stamina and success.

When we looked up, billowing towers of smoke could still be seen on the hills across our road, but an hour earlier they had been flames. Were things starting to get under control?

We all decided to take a chance and wait a little longer.  We put our vehicles inside our respective garages and closed the doors so the cops wouldn’t see that we hadn’t left!  We then stayed glued to our televisions for updates.  If we absolutely had to, we were all packed and could evacuate within seconds.

As minutes rolled into half an hour, and then an hour, the smoke in the canyon began clearing. It was now 6:30 p.m. News reports said the fires were 75% contained.  We let the cats out of the cages and into one of our bedrooms.  One of them had to pee so badly, I could not believe his little bladder could hold that much liquid!

By now, my hubbie and I were feeling famished.  We prayed some more and began to wonder if we might actually be able to wait this out. We called family and friends with updates… and waited some more.  The helicopters kept thundering overhead, but only one or two now, instead of six. We began to feel more hopeful.

“They’re letting evacuees return home at 8 o’clock,” the engineer told us over the phone.  We looked at our watch. It was 7:30 p.m. and dusk was falling.  The smoke had almost all dissipated.

“I think we’re going to be fine,” I told my husband optimistically.  “I’m letting the cats out of the bedroom and making us dinner.”

By 8, we were devouring fish and artichokes.  The fire had chewed up 75 acres, but no residences had been destroyed.  Three neighboring cities had collaborated with emergency services not the least of which were the real heroes, those incredible firefighters! They had labored bravely for hours. We began discussing how we could express our thanks. Mostly, we thanked God for his unbelievable grace and protection.

Though the adrenaline rush and stress had wiped us out, the rest of the evening  became about unpacking as much as we could before we just collapsed utterly exhausted.  How sweet it was to sleep in our own beds with the cats curled up around us!  We slept soundly, trusting in the care and protection of our loving Father who had delivered us, once again, from the perils of this life.

Saturday morning, our canyon was quiet and still.  We and the cats felt a little dazed and quite drained.  Although we’d been protected, the mental and emotional decompression was very real.

Sunday, we awoke to grey skies and at midday, gentle showers comforted our hearts and hills.  What a Savior!

Today, may whatever danger you are facing draw you nearer to Jesus, for He will shelter you under His wings and keep you safe.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me.”  (Psalm 23:4)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

 

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. What an adventure!

    • It took me less than an hour to pack and two days to unpack! Whew!

  2. Who says you have to be on the mission field for a God adventure! He is so faithful to His covenant children. It reminds me of the wilderness journey!

    • It was extraordinary to see Him at work. Yes, wherever God is, there is adventure!

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