Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Monument Fire Evacuation, Part 3

Encouraging thoughts from a friend - thank you, Dawn B!

Have you not known, have you not heard?  The everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the weak, And to those who lack might, He increases strength.  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall.  But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.  They will mount up with wings like eagles.  They will run and not be weary.  They will walk and not faint (Isa. 40:28-31).

Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Jesus speaking, Matt. 11:28-30).

[For those of us who are impatient and want this fire thing to be over with, Paul writes about his own life:]  Concerning this thing [that Paul wants out of his life], I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore, most gladly, I will rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore, I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong (Corinthians).

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?  And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will.  But the very hairs on your head are numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matt. 10:28-31).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Monument Fire Evacuation, Part 2

June 18, 2011:  Saturday (AM)

Yesterday was another day full of surprises.  I got up and went to Beth & Roy's to make a perch for the bird from some of their firewood.  The dogs ran around while I picked my stick, cleaned it with bleach and sanded it down.  Then I ran errands, like buying bird toys, picking up our mail (which was evacuated to the Sierra Vista post office), and visiting my mom. 

I took the "other route" to Sierra Vista - the one that doesn't go near the fire - and was driving 65 mph when my phone rang.  I didn't answer, but then I thought, "Maybe it's the sheriff calling to tell me about my house."  So I pulled over and returned the call.  The outgoing message said it was Kristi Somebody's phone, but didn't specify any agency.  I left a message: "If you're Kristi from Cox, the branches got trimmed back and the guy did a fabulous job.  Thanks!  If you're calling from the Sheriff's office, please call me at this number again as soon as possible.  I really want to know if my house still exists!  Thanks."  I left my name and number, and kept on driving.

The phone rang a few moments later, and Kristi confirmed that she was from Cox, expressed sympathy and concern for my situation, then asked if she knew of any way to track the fire better, because Cox has to know about infrastructure to replace, etc.  I gave her Jeff's number, because he has all the URLs, and didn't think any more of it.  I had lots to do in Sierra Vista, and I wanted to get home in time to give my birdie another perch and some toys.

Picking up the mail was better than I expected.  The line extended across the entire lobby/mailbox area, but moved quickly.  Within 25 minutes, I was at the window.  The woman wasn't going to give me Mom's mail, because the name on PO Box 1723 didn't match mine, and apparently she didn't think that Amelia Quinn's mail going to both PO Box 703 in my name and 1723 was proof enough.  However, the post office employee who rented me the PO Box and knows me walked up at just that moment, and was willing to vouch for me.  Hurray for small towns!

As I left the PO, I ran into my friend Florene from Buena HS.  We were chatting when my phone rang.  It was a Cox employee checking infrastructure in Stump Canyon.  "I'm in your front yard," he said.  "Your house is still there, but your yard is going to need some work."  It was the best news I'd had since the fire got bad in Stump Canyon and jumped the lines.

Kristi, bless her heart, had called and asked him to go check on the house for me.  Better yet, he checked on the houses behind ours, and they all looked okay.  I wanted him to check on Sharon's house to the north, too, but we lost the phone signal.  Nonetheless, good news for everyone.  I felt like I was floating on air.

My last stop in Sierra Vista was Hacienda Rehab.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there was a new fire on Fort Huachuca, and that Hacienda might have to evacuate to Tucson.  Not surprisingly, the center was understaffed, with so many people evacuating, and the people who were working were on edge, trying to get everything ready just in case.  As the UPS guy in the parking lot said, "It's been a really weird day.  I was delivering packages in Cochise Crossing and they evacuated the entire subdivision."

I got more news about the newly christened Antelope Fire when I got back to Bisbee and talked to Jeff.  He had been listening to the live radio chatter all day via the Internet.  What had happened was that a spark from a bulldozer started a fire, and the pilot of a slurry plane noticed something while flying overhead with a load of slurry.  He dropped it on the new fire and alerted everybody, which I'm sure resulted in quick containment.  I'm also sure that God had some hand in this, because the fire just happened to be starting as a slurry plane just happened to be flying overhead, and the pilot just happened to notice the brushfire.  Thus there was a quick resolution to what could have been a terrible tragedy.  As it was, I'm sure the residents who had to evacuate in a hurry thought this was bad enough.

Kristi phoned again to tell me there was a photo of the house, and that she could send it to me.  Talk about above and beyond customer service!  We can see from the photo that the fire crew took everything flammable off the porch for us (why didn't we think of that?) and that the fire burned a lot in the front yard from the north, but everything visible in the top acre looks fine.  Even a green tree still in the front yard.  Astonishing!

I'm very glad we saw that before we saw the photo of our driveway on, in the June 16 photo gallery.  You can see the mailbox with our address, and the trees behind it (to the north) on fire, with forty-foot flames shooting up above the trees, and smoke, or perhaps smoke and flame, rolling across the highway.  It's a terrifying picture.  Jacqui emailed it to Jeff, but for some reason he didn't check his personal email, and as a result, didn't see the scary picture until after he knew our home was still standing.

Pizza night at the Bisbee Beverage House was truly celebratory, since we know our home, and the homes of many of our friends, are still safe.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Monument Fire Evacuation, Part 1

June 17, 2011:  Friday AM

This week has been rather a wild roller coaster.  Let me try to summarize and describe.

On Sunday, there was a fire reported on the Coronado National Monument (hence the name, the Monument Fire).  It quickly spread to over 2000 acres.

At the time, we were at Mormon Lake in northern Arizona, about 7 hours drive away from our home in Hereford.  We were attending an SCA event called Highlands War.  On Saturday, I took a coat-making class from Angele, and it just so happened that somebody who didn't sign up for the class came and made a coat pattern.  I was last, so there were no more shower curtains left for me to make a coat pattern.  I told Angele, "It's no big deal.  I have Jeff's tunic pattern, and I've watched you do this.  Don't worry about it."  However, it bothered Angele, and Sunday morning she suggested that we spend the night at her house, break up the driving, and make the coat pattern there.  Jeff and I agreed that it would be fun.  We finished shopping on merchant's row, packed up the motorhome and started driving south.

While we were driving, Dan called to tell us there was a fire nearby, and we should head home.  I was worried, of course, but mostly relieved that God has used the shower curtain incident and Angele's invitation to get us on the road two and a half hours sooner.  We got home late Sunday night.

Monday we were told we were on "pre-evacuation" status, to be ready to move.  Jeff brought all the musical instruments (except the grand piano and the older keyboards) to the church in Bisbee.  While he was there, Pastor gave him a key and said we could park the motorhome behind the church, and use the RV dump, electrical connection and water if we needed to.  Meanwhile, I began to pack and prepare as best I could.

Tuesday morning, there was almost no smoke, so I decided to do laundry and clean up the motorhome.  In the afternoon, Carl Veitch called to ask if we were okay.  I looked out the window to see dark gray smoke billowing up from the ridge behind our house.  "I don't think so," I answered.  "I think I need to get off the phone."

As I was walking to the back of our yard, I saw the pastor from Amado Baptist, and made sure there were enough vehicles to get all 80 kids out.  Just then, Jeff yelled, "We're leaving."  Dan had phoned to tell us the Sheriff said to evacuate now.  That was our 30-minute notice.

The next 15 minutes were utterly frantic.  We had most of what we needed in the truck or the motorhome.  We grabbed more things rather randomly and frantically, then moved the car down to Hwy. 92.  I raced back to the truck, and we got birds, dogs, and motorhome out to the highway.  Then we needed to take the car somewhere.  Our neighbor Julie offered to drive it to Country Estates Baptist, where the kids and camp staff were. 

This sounds pretty straightforward, but in reality it was nuts.  When we parked the car, I had said we would take it to Three Canyons; then I saw that the police weren't letting anyone through.  So I pulled it off the highway and ran back frantically toward Jeff.  I'm pretty sure I was dragging the dogs with me, and the bird was in the truck.  Then it was back to the house to get the motorhome.
The sheriff had said they would let the truck back through, but then we were stuck behind someone who was arguing with the sheriff, and I wasn't sure they would let us through to get the motorhome.  It felt like every minute counted because if we waited too long, the fire might come over the ridge and we wouldn't get through at all.  But we did.

Then Jeff and Julie were supposed to be bringing the motorhome and the car, and they didn't show up for what seemed like forever, and I was really afraid something had happened.  It all turned out okay, and finally we were all at Country Estates. 

Dan, being an amazing director, had all the kids evacuated within 15 minutes, with a pizza and slumber party at the church that night.  This is in stark contrast to Larry's emergency plan, which was to shelter the kids in the swimming pool area until the fire passed.  Even a metal building is not much protection against smoke inhalation.  I was really, really glad Dan was in charge, and not Larry.

Jeff and I left the car at Country Estates and drove to Bisbee.  Because of the fire, the most direct route (Hwy. 92) was closed.  I told Jeff I would follow him, but when I got onto the road first, I realized there was no way to pull over and get behind the motorhome.  When we got separated, Jeff ended up going down Ramsey Road, and I ended up going down SR 90.  It took a phone call to get that straightened out.  I told him I wasn't turning around, that I would take the other route.  This was actually a good thing, because I was able to fill the tank and get water for the animals.  Eddie was fine, but Jimmy was wedged under the seat behind the bird cage, and Lindy was panting heavily.  I needed to give them all a cool drink and move things around so it was safe for everybody.

We set up the motorhome, left the dogs crated in the church and took the bird to Dawn Turner's.  Real friendship is sheltering a military macaw.  I can't tell you how wonderful it is to know your pets are safe when your house may be burning down.

We drove all the way back to Sierra Vista to retrieve the car.  I don't remember where or what we ate, or even if we ate at all.  It was one of those nights.  I think I may have gone to Safeway too, to get the basics like bread, lunchmeat and milk, but again, I really don't remember.

Wednesday and Thursday are kind of a blur.  I spent the time trying to organize the motorhome, figure out what we did and didn't have, and get ourselves settled.  Sometimes we'd hear that our house was probably okay, or definitely okay.  We knew from the informational meeting on Wednesday that the fire was burning at the top of the canyon, above the mechanical and fire-retardant lines, where the partly built concrete house was.  If the fire could be kept above those control lines for as long as possible, the houses in the canyons would be saved.  The longer the delay, the better, because the fire would be burning cooler and more slowly, and the chances of stopping it would be better.

Then yesterday afternoon because of the high winds, the fire really did get down into Stump Canyon.  At the informational meeting last night, we were told that "some, but not all, of the houses in Stump Canyon were destroyed."  Later in the evening, Dan told us that the fire had burned the back of the camp, down to Wayne and Connie's manufactured home, but that no major structures had been destroyed.  Only the roofs in Teepee Village had been burned or damaged.

Now, on Friday morning, we have hope but no news.  The fire jumped 92 at Stump Canyon, which is a bit north of our house, so perhaps our home burned; but the camp is okay, maybe our home is still there too.  We just don't know. 

Honestly, I think it's probably good that the Sheriff's office has not called to tell us the house is gone.  However, it may be days before we hear anything either way.  According to the SV Herald, "The number of structures impacted in Stump Canyon is unknown and will not be known until a ground survey of the area is completed at a later time."  That doesn't sound like notifying me is a particularly high priority right now, and with the fire still growing, I'd rather see other people's homes saved than hear about mine.

Jeff has managed to work throughout all this, and is doing very well, all things considered.  The bird is fine, the dogs are okay, and I'm okay.  Not sure what else to say, other than that God is good, and whatever else we lose, it will all be just stuff.

I am concerned about our neighbors' houses as well as my own.  I'm praying that many homes survived the fire.

Meanwhile, I actually have a to-do list which included picking up our mail (which was evacuated to Sierra Vista), paying bills, and getting a perch for the bird.  Our lives right now are rather surreal.  Having something to do is actually very comforting, even if it's only standing in line at the post office.