Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What would you take with you?

What would you take with you if your town was evacuated due to the threat of the hugest forest fire in the state's history?

Flash back 11 years.  The town of Los Alamos was evacuated in 2000 because of the Cerro Grande Fire.  The evacuation started at noon and that evening, more than 200 homes burned to the ground.  

Everyone in this town that was here back then has a story about "the fire" and the evacuation.  These tales are littered with the good deeds of people who took families in, hotels and restaurants that wouldn't accept payment from evacuees, and individuals and animal shelters taking in animals from horses right down to kittens.  The amazing stories almost make one wish they'd been present to see it all.  

Flash forward to about a month ago.  I was enjoying lunch in the home of some friends from church who had lost their home in the Cerro Grande fire.  They had been away on vacation when it happened.  Luckily, their son had been able to come to Los Alamos and rescue a few precious things before the fire swept through their neighborhood.  After telling the story, the woman asked me what I would want to take with me from my house if the same situation ever presented itself.  


Flash forward to June 27, 2011, just a couple weeks ago, and a couple weeks after this lovely lunch discussion.  We were in the exact middle of our long-time planned two-week trip to Ecuador.  During one of our occasional sittings at a computer, I read a facebook status about a fire close to Los Alamos; the Las Conchas Fire (which still burns today).  Further research on my crumby internet connection revealed that a fire had started the day before, about 12 miles from Los Alamos.  

Oh no!

There are fires during the summer all the time in the southwest.  We knew this year would be bad because of having such a dry winter, but dang....12 miles is close.  

Next, I got loads of emails from friends and family telling me about the fire, not knowing if I'd caught on to its presence yet.  My brother in Albuquerque offered to make the 4 hour round-trip journey up to Los Alamos to gather anything we might want out of the house.  Having recently been asked what we would want taken out of the house in this situation, I knew exactly what the short list would be:
  1. An original painting that my parents had commissioned my sister-in-law to paint as a wedding gift to us
  2. Some photos
  3. A quilt that Leni's mom had made us
  4. A file cabinet drawer full of important documents like taxes, insurance information, etc.
  5. The laptop computer
That's it.  We didn't need much.  Thanks to the marvels of modern day homeowner's insurance, virtually everything is replaceable.  We didn't want to be hung up on "stuff".  The only thing that would have pissed me off would have been the fact that we just spent thousands on our new roof a couple months ago.  Our biggest concern was the brave personnel fighting the fire.  I was so terrified that someone would be hurt or even killed, just for the sake of saving some insured buildings.  

So Nick and his friend Byron jumped in the car and drove up to Los Alamos to get our stuff.  Ash was falling from the sky and people were leaving.  They were actually one of the last few cars allowed into the city as the mandatory evacuation (the first since 2000) was ordered.  The guys spent 30-40 minutes grabbing the stuff from my list as well as (bless their hearts!) a BUNCH more stuff.  How wonderful of them.  Nick said that as they were packing stuff, the national guard was rolling down my street with a loud speaker telling residents to get out.  


All in all, the fire took far fewer houses this time, 63.  All of them where in the mountains and not in the city.  The fire fighters kept the fire out of the town and away from the lab, which would have constituted a potential nuclear crisis. 

My husband is a Systems Engineer and is in charge of a fire suppression system in one of the nuclear facilities.  Insert irony here.

We began our journey home from Ecuador the day the evacuation was lifted.  Just like our friends, we were away on a trip when an evacuation was ordered in the first place.  But unlike them, we came home to a smoky yet standing city, and a perfectly fine house.  We are so blessed.  

As I mentioned before, the fire still burns today, but mostly within the contained control of the fire fighters, still working to keep us all safe.  As of current, the fire is 50% contained.  Here are some photos I've taken over the last few days:

Not a cloud friends but a huge column of smoke.  Nasty.

Taken from White Rock, about 10 miles away

As you can see, this isn't just overcast.  Here's blue sky to compare to.

I see these suckers fly all day long

Another very smoke-filled day

Always overhead

The flames could be seen at night.  Shot this from half a block away from my house
It begs the question, what is important in your life?  What possessions are you tied to?  What is irreplaceable versus just "stuff"?

Just remember: in the end, you can't take ANY of it with you :)

Keep It Real! (and insured!)

No comments:

Post a Comment