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Fires at Home

July 4, 2012

Yesterday afternoon about 2:30 I glanced outside and saw a sickening plume of smoke coming from my hometown.  I live about 10 miles away from where I grew up, but I could see a horrific mast of smoke rising into the blue sky from the mountains near my mom’s home.

mushroom cloud

[ This photo taken through my windshield at a stop sign.  It makes me sick to my stomach. ]

Not 5 minutes later my mom called me when the piano lesson she was teaching was interrupted by a sobbing mother who was being evacuated and came to grab her kids.  The fire was less than 30 minutes old and they were evacuating homes less than a mile from my mom’s house.  She called me, I found a babysitter for Creamie (thanks a million Kim!) and went to help my mom.

East Mountain

[ Stopped on the street right behind my mom’s house.  I was too close to get the smoke in one shot. ]

She didn’t end up evacuating, but I was glad she didn’t have to sit and think about it by herself the rest of the day.  Looking at everything you own and trying to decide what to take and what is worth losing is emotionally exhausting.  The top layer, the VERY most important things is easy.  It’s the next layer down that is completely overwhelming.  And when you have 15 minutes, the top layer is enough.  But if you are looking at the possibility of evacuation a few hours in advance it’s a lot more overwhelming.  So we left.  We walked outside and sat down with the neighbors on their lawn and watched the fire and the smoke destroy the mountains I have loved my whole life.  We watched for hours.  It was sickening, but I couldn’t look away.  The smoke plume could be seen for 75 miles it was so big.  It has spread ash all over the state.  It looked like a volcano, or a mushroom cloud.  I’ve never seen smoke like that.  I hope I never see it again.

fire at sunset

[ Several hours later, still burning horribly, but thanks to tankers of fire retardant not moving so fast. ]

The fire was started by a guy in a trackhoe digging a trench.  He hit a rock and it sparked and he couldn’t dump dirt on the dry grass fast enough to put it out.  It has burned over 3000 acres in less than 24 hours.  The firemen, the tanker planes and the blackhawk helicopters have saved every home from burning.  One barn was lost, but the homes are all safe.

[ One home that was miraculously saved thanks to helicopters dumping hundreds of gallons of water.  Pic from Josh James via twitter.]

This haunting image is a testimony to the amazing men and women who are out battling fires on the ground and from the air.  It gives me the shivers.  And today, on the 4th of July I am grateful not only for the soldiers and military who keep my country safe from the outside, but I am grateful for the hundreds and millions of people who keep my home safe from the inside.


[ The view from the end of my mom’s street.  The flames are only about 1/2 mile away. ]

Fires are nothing new to me.  We had four huge fires in the mountains that surrounded home while I was growing up.  We were evacuated.  We fed firemen at our church.  We sat on the grass and watched the beautiful hundred year old pines burn and the moutains turn into a charred ashy hell.  But it still doesn’t make it easier.  Even thinking about my combined fire experiences makes me sick to my stomach.

Alpine Quail Fire (Utah) at Night

[ The fire at night.  The fireline on the right side is the same spot as in my picture above.  Photo by Single Dad Laughing on flickr (so don’t pin this, it’s not mine.)  It will be a long time before all those hotspots have burned out. }

But in all those fires there were never homes lost.  People weren’t hurt.  I am so thankful for those who are protecting me, my family, my childhood home from all of it.  I’m thankful for those who are protecting us abroad and at home.  Thanks to them for keeping this the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Happy 4th of July.

UPDATE: Here is a time lapse video that was taken at the end of my mom’s street.  Two hours of fire burning condensed into 22 seconds.  It is sickening how quickly it burned up the side of the mountain and crested the ridge…

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenna permalink
    July 4, 2012 12:56 pm

    I live in Wisconsin and it’s been incredibly dry here this year. We’ve had a few small grass fires pop up here and there. Our fireworks have been postponed with hopes for some rain. But it’s nothing compared to the West. It’s heartbreaking to see. We pray for rain here because the crops are dying but we’ve been praying for the West too. Stay safe!

  2. Melissa permalink
    July 4, 2012 1:07 pm

    I am so glad you and all those homes are safe! Those images are haunting and so scary, so I can imagine that sick feeling you feel if you actually live right there! I live in Nashville and we have had some dry weather lately and a ban on personal fireworks. Most of my family, however, lives in Colorado, California, and Idaho. I know in Colorado they have been dealing with these horrible forest fires all summer. Thank you God for those brave firefighters who risk their own lives for others, and like you mentioned, thank you also for all our service men and women! Thank you for this post, as a reminder to give thanks this Fourth of July. Please take care! Melissa

  3. July 4, 2012 2:10 pm

    I can’t take it. and I’m not even there. Wish I could whisk you all away for a beach vacation.

  4. July 4, 2012 5:05 pm

    My heart breaks for you and so many others. Looking at your pictures takes my breath. I am so sorry for what is happening. So sorry…

  5. Aussiegrl permalink
    July 4, 2012 6:43 pm

    I can’t imagine how frightening that must have been. So glad you are all ok.

  6. Shidah permalink
    July 4, 2012 6:52 pm

    I am so glad to read that you and your loved ones are safe and sound…

  7. July 5, 2012 12:13 am

    Do you even remember the drive to your mom’s house? How frightening. So glad that everyone is ok. You are right, firefighters, smokejumpers and pilots are incredible and risk their lives daily to save property, people, wildlife, resources and habitat. Definitely the unsung heroes of summer.

  8. July 7, 2012 7:45 am

    My husband grew up in Alpine, he has been there since there was only one ward. This was heart aching for us t0 watch also. I was leaving work on Tuesday and turned my head to see what traffic was coming and then saw the smoke, really scary. I am glad that your family is OK.


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