Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Fire (October, 1982)


These fires bring back memories.
I've never been evacuated. My house hasn't burned, but both  almost happened in 1982.
I was thirteen and lived in a semi rural part of Orange County. One Saturday morning, I glanced away from the television. Everything had an orange tint, like a big glass of Tang  was filtering the sun. I went outside to investigate.
A wall of smoke blotted out the eastern sky. Flames twinkled on a hill, four miles away. The smoke flowed in my direction. Would the fire follow?
"I wouldn't worry," my Dad said. "It doesn't look that big. But you can bring a few things if want to be safe." We were going to Redondo Beach that day to help with a family yard sale. My folks brought along some important paperwork, documents and photo albums. I packed my plush walrus (my favorite childhood toy). Just to be safe. The fire probably wouldn't spread.
But it did. As we sold plates, glasses and knickknacks from card tables, the radio kept blurting about the fire. It was getting bigger. It was threatening homes. People were on their roofs with hoses...
"Maybe we should go back and get our stuff?" I said.
"Nah," my Dad said. "First, our house probably isn't in danger, and second, if it was, they wouldn't let us go near it."
The drive back (after the sale was over), was scary. The radio babbled about the now-enormous fire and the homes it was burning.  Entire blocks were aflame.   It hadn't reached my street.  At least not yet.
   We could see the smoke as soon as we got on the freeway, even though it was over 20 miles away.
The police set up a checkpoint near our home. My folks had to show I.D. to get through. The official word:  Yes, the fire was close, but it had burned a path to the south of us and was now heading away . Unless the wind changed (The small gap between our home and the fire was clogged with dry brush), we wouldn't need to evacuate.
The wind didn't change. I remember watching flames less than a half mile away as the wind shooed them southwest (where they would do more damage). Interesting how the fate of our home stood on something as fickle as which way the wind blew.


6 comments:

Sally said...

What a scary, scary memory. Are you especially afraid of fire now?

When I was little in New Jersey, people still burned their trash in their back yards, and my best friend and I loved to set our own little back yard fires. Fortunately the attraction is entirely outgrown.

Namowal said...

I can't say I'm especially afraid of it, but I am very cautious. For example, I'll never leave a candle lit in another room and I often think "hmmm, if this place caught on fire, how would I get out?". Oddly, in addition to the wildfire, I've been in three fire "drills" which turned out to be real fires (although two of them were wimpy and the bigger one didn't put me in any danger).

Namowal said...

I never knew people burned trash in their yards (and I'm almost 40!)
Glad you outgrew your fire habit.;)

Sally said...

I'm worried about candles the same way. It's weird about burning the trash- I mean we had a trash truck that came by. But there were so many leaves, and they were all burned.

I was in a terrorist drill at Universal City around 1982- that was really weird because it seemed so nuts and was such a new concept.

Sally said...

We're going to have to meet sometime. We seem to be very similar, right down to the ducks!

Namowal said...

Agreed. :)