Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday, August 12, 2011

Leaving my Heart to the Flames

"Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on."
~ Eckhart Tolle ~
I felt like the fire was on our heels but when we stopped on the ridge and looked back I only saw distant smoke.
I found my camera in my purse. Of all the things that should have been in the car and truck we had taken only these things...Purse, medications, bolt cutters, a vice wrench, two Corgis and the little point and shoot camera. We needed so much more.
We had no time to make these decisions. Our neighbor, "D" called us at about 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday. He was yelling at us, saying that a fire was coming up our hill toward our house.
We had the house closed up and the air conditioning on. We didn't smell or notice anything. We looked out of the window toward the southeast and there was a wall of flame, smoke and sparks coming toward the house.
The Prospector jumped up and told me to grab what I needed  plus the halters and leashes for the dogs. He ran outside and turned the Propane tank off while I got the dogs into the car.
 I waited outside near the goats, I told them I was sorry, said a prayer, and in anger thought "Where the hell are the fire trucks." Both our neighbor and my husband had called 911. They said that the fire had been called in.
The fire was moving up behind the house. It was then that I said goodbye to all of this. I let it all go. I didn't take any pictures. I didn't think to take clothing, or important papers. Nothing but the dogs and some medications... and the bolt cutters that we knew we needed to go through a gate on our neighbors property at the top of the hill.
The Prospector was in the truck ahead of me. We had not taken this old road up and over the ridge in a long time. At the top of the ridge I got stuck on a big rock . I tried to back away from it but I was stuck, and the car died. We transferred the dogs to the truck, left the car and drove on up to the old road.
We finally reach the gate and my husband cut a link in the chain that was locked. We passed a truck with a man in it. We explained who we were and that we had cut the locked chain on the fence. He was OK with that. We finally reached the next ranch.
We passed a  bulldozer that was heading down toward our house.  I don't know how he got there so fast. My husband stopped and talked to him for a minute, giving him directions to the house and telling him about the abandoned car.
We drove out past some highway patrolmen and  some ranchers that had their horses ready to load into trailers if the fire moved in that direction. We explained were we came from and why we came through the ranch.
Finally we arrived at the top of Highway 49, drove down to a store and bought some water and a dog dish .
A friend called and said that she would leave the gate open for us... bless her heart. She listened to my hysterical voice on the phone and told me lots of soothing things that calmed me down. Thank you Lori.
Then I called my sister.... Not that she could do anything, being three hours away, but I felt better after I talked to her.
I choose to stay with my husband and we drove back down the river road toward our house.
The sheriff stopped us  and said that we couldn't get down to our road so we waited there with him. Finally a fire supervisor came up and talked to us. He said that the fire was under control and the house was OK.... and the animals too. I could not believe that they saved the house. It was an amazing moment.
They were able to stop the fire because when it got to the open area that the goats graze on, it slowed the fire down enough for them to contain it.  He said that our "defensible space" was the only thing that saved the house.
 Shortly there after they let us drive down to our neighbor's entrance and The Prospector walked up to our entrance. I stayed with the dogs.
I watched the helicopters flying over us.

and the bomber going back and forth. The copters dropped water from the river on the contained fire and the bomber dropped fire retardant on everything.
My neighbors came home from work and took me in. They were so wonderful. They even joked about how The Prospector wouldn't have to clear anymore areas for a while. It was a corny joke, but just the comic relief that I needed.

Slowly, as evening arrived, the fire trucks and cars came down off of our road...
 and we were able to go home.

As we drove up past the fireman on the road I shouted a thousand "Thank yous" out the window...

The entrance didn't burn. Nothing looked different except for all the fire trucks and so many people.

This is such a monumental effort ....
As we drove up the road we started to see the fire damage and the folks that were still putting out the hot spots.
Again, I shouted our thank yous and they waved back.
At the turn in our road I saw that even the Pine Grove Dept. of Corrections had arrive with their trainees. These are young men that are serving time for juvenile offenses and are a big help to Cal Fire. There were all here saving OUR house.
We continued on up to the house. There was a truck in our driveway. We shook hand with more firemen and talked to them for a few minutes.

I walked through the gate into the front yard and they were right, our house was actually there. Nothing had changed. I walked over to the edge of the garden and this is what I saw...

Everything had a coating of orange fire retardant on it. 
It was strange and other worldly.

Everything above the fire retardant was not burned... everything below was black. The fireman said that the fire moved very fast but didn't burn hot, so there were a lot of unburned tops of trees. The fire burned fast up the hill, skipped across our road and came straight up to the house.  Late spring rains left moisture in the ground and trees. The defensible space (the goat pasture and the drive way.), the moisture in the ground and the fast control of the fire by the fire crews saved the house. 
 This is what it looks like below the goat run. A forest of burnt Manzanita and Oak.
This is a view from the burn area looking up toward the house.

Yesterday we spent the day cleaning fire retardant off of the vegetable plants, fences and everything we could remove it from.
The fire people were here most of the day cleaning up.

This morning we drove down to see what the fire burned and what was left.
My feet may look like they are on the ground ...
But they're not...

More photos tomorrow.


  1. I am so glad that you, the Prospector, your animals, and your house are all okay. I know firsthand how scary this is. Getting a reverse 911 call at 2:00 a.m. from the Sheriff's Dept. and having them go up our street with a megaphone telling people to get their belongings and evacuate. It is so hard to know what to take with you when you have such little time. People always say it is just "stuff", but I think it is so much more. It is all very nerve-wracking and scary. I am so thankful for both of us that things turned out so well. There were so many in our situation that were not so fortunate. Take care. xxx

  2. Wow.... So glad your home was spared and that the animals are ok. Oh, and you and the prospector too. :)

  3. I shed tears, tears and more tears. How unbelievably hard that must have been for you to have to leave the goat boys behind. I have given thanks over and over that my dear friend and all of her "family" is safe. What an ordeal; I pray that you never have to go through anything similar again. Love to you and the prospector and all the "kids". ~Dawn

  4. wow. amazing...so cool that they were able to stop in in time...i think i would go hug those goats for sure...lol...whew...so glad you are ok and the animals and everything...pretty amazing

  5. huge *sigh* of relief...that's all I got right now, I'm shaking just reading this. Thank God you are all alright. love and prayers to you all and big thank you's to those fire-fighters.

  6. Of all the things in my world I think fire is the scariest... an I live in tornado alley. Fire just seems to destroy so much in such a short amount of time. I think the boys deserve an extra hug and an extra treat for creating the firebreak. Wow. Hugs to you and the Prospector and thanks to the goats, the firemen and all the prayers and candles lit to keep you in the light and protected.


  7. Connie, I cried when I read this post. They were tears of joy because you, your husband, animals and house were spared. I know it was scary, but the firemen did their job and I am so grateful. Have a blessed day. Madeline

  8. Hurray for defensible space and goats that maintain it! It sounds like the trees were not entirely destroyed, just the tops? Winter and spring rains will wash away the black and new green growth will appear before you know it. The firefighters quick response always amazes me. They work so hard and do such a fabulous job so keep the foothills safe. Have you had a good cry yet? If you haven't, take a few deep breaths, then let her rip. You deserve it!

  9. I love your friend, thecrazysheeplady's post, "Holy crap". I think she said it all!

    I hope you can feel yourself calming a little bit. I'm sure it will be awhile before you feel back to normal.
    In the meantime, this is my prayer for you.

    Dear Mother Nature, God, Mrs. Williams and all of Connie's spiritual guides:
    Thank you for protecting our girl and her domain. She and The Prospector showed
    great boldness of spirit and courage.
    We know that all things happen for reasons that work out to be beneficial to us.
    Please keep our Connie under your wing, and give her the insight to
    understand the message she has been given with regard to the fire.
    Please continue to guide her, giving her clarity of thought and the strength,
    both physically and emotionally, to make the proper choices about what they
    must do to protect themselves, their property and the animals, so they may
    remain safe and never have to face this terror again.

    Love ~ Dawn

  10. I'm so glad to hear this turned out well for all! How heartbreaking to have to leave without your animals, and in such short notice that you were leaving everything behind.
    "Thank you"s to all the hard working firefighters, and to the goats for keeping the burnable brush down to a minimum. And some prayers added in for some rain....steady and long, to prevent new fires and finish the old ones.

  11. praise be
    that was a close one
    and I too cried when you told us about the goats...thank God they and you and your husband and the house were spared and are safe

  12. I was so worried for you as I read this post. It was hard not to skip down to the bottom...to see if everything turned out ok, but I didn't allow myself to do it. I wanted to feel (in a small measure) what you were going through. What a nail biter! How terrible to have to leave the goats like that! And to think that their grazing SAVED your place. They are hero goats, that's what they are! Not to mention the firefighters...
    Glad you're safe and sound.

  13. Like THE CRAZY SHEEP LADY above...


  15. Wow...what a close call. It's so frightening isn't it! We had a close call a couple of years ago. Living in the forests like we do, it is always a concern. I am so happy that everything was spared. That fire retardant is something isn't it! Does it help fertilize the ground? This always reminds me that we need to have a plan set in place for just this kind of event. What to take, what to leave. Sometimes there is no time to think.

  16. Totally agree with crazysheeplady!

    Oh dear God in Heaven thank you!!!!

    I was shaking along with Jojo...

  17. How absolutely scary this had to have been. You have to love those wonderful goat friends even more. So relieved you,hubby,and all furry and feathered friends are safe.

  18. I'm so happy for you and all of your family, two-legged and four-legged. What a difficult thing to go through. Beyond glad to hear that your home was spared. What an amazing job these firefighters do.


  19. Oh Connie, what an amazing story. I am so glad you are all ok. How frightening for all of you. Thank goodness. Thanks for sharing that, so wonderfully written. I can't even imagine. Big hug, Riki

  20. O my word, Farmlady I was so horrified by this post this is a very close call.When I was in HS our home in the Blue Mtns of Australia was absolutely surrounded by a wall of flame & only my mother's insane courage in soaking the house & yard with the hose saved it.I could have been motherless at 14. So I know first hand what it's like.
    Just can't tell you how relieved I was to get to the part where I read that your home & your critters are safe.
    Big hugs...........

  21. Sheep lady eloquently expressed most every one's reaction to this, me too. We hear all the time about fires in those mountains but it's different when it's someone you know; or it's you! I can't imagine the terror.
    I agree you need a good cry. I just thank God that you are spared, your home, your animals, and your LIVES.
    Wow I need a zanex.


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