Rick and I received warnings on our cellphones that we might have to evacuate due to the Kincaid fire northeast of town. Geyserville, Healdsburg and Windsor had already been evacuated. The blaze was out of control, consuming acres of grass, brush, trees, and some houses and businesses. PG&E was shutting down power all over the state, and Sonoma County was on the list. A few days before the inferno, people had lined up at gas stations to fill their tanks before the electricity went off. They bought supplies from the grocery stores. And there was a rush on generators.
We made a list of what we should take and started packing a “GO” bag – i.e. two suitcases. My computer with research materials so I wouldn’t lose everything to do with my current project (and livelihood) and my Bible. What else? A binder (suggested by our very organized daughter) with all our important documents, passports, passwords. Rick’s Parkinson’s medications, checkbook, tax file, address book, calendar and business card file; flashlights (with new batteries), AM/FM radio, cash, water, dog food and some special things Rick has given me over the years which are irreplaceable. We each had a mesh bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, etc., and a couple changes of clothes.
Rick awakened me at 5:15 a.m. The police were going through neighborhoods with their new emergency sirens blaring to EVACUATE NOW! I didn’t want to go. “I’ve got a couple of hoses out back…” Rick’s response: “Get up, get dressed, get in the car.” “Okay, okay…” (He didn’t have to remind me that houses literally vaporized in the Tubbs fire. My little garden hose wasn’t going to help much. We had the car packed in short order and Sarge comfortably settled in the back seat. Red taillights were heading out of the neighborhood.
We’d received a text from friends saying, “You’re welcome here.” Amazing what a relief it is to know where you’re going, even when it takes 3.5 hours to drive the 11.3 miles. After all, 180,000 people were being evacuated. If a fire had been raging in Santa Rosa, we’d all be roasted in our melting cars. Thankfully, the authorities wanted to make sure everyone was safely out of the area in case the fire jumped the six-lane freeway and burned through west Santa Rosa the way it did in two years ago. Drivers were polite. No one was in a panic. We listened to the news and knew what was going on minute-by-minute. Sarge fell asleep in the back seat. We didn’t worry. We just waited and moved along like a turtle. Well, turtles move faster.
Even without electricity and water, our friends were ready for us and four others coming from Sebastopol, also under evacuation orders. We had a nice hot breakfast and coffee available, as well as buckets of water to flush toilets because the community pump had no power. I passed on coffee and breakfast because we’d received word from our eldest son to come stay with his family in Vacaville. If it took 3.5 hours to go less than 12 miles, how long would it take to go 50 miles? I didn’t want to be squatting by our car in a traffic jam. Nope. Not an experience I want.
Our son had contacted a kennel and they were ready and waiting for Sarge who was happy to see another German Shepherd in the unit next to him, and a black lab on the other side. When I pulled out my credit card, Happy Paws (in Dixon) said, “No charge. It’s our way of helping evacuees.”
We spent five days with our son, daughter-in-law, grandson and granddaughter (both in high school), enjoying ourselves. They made us comfortable, and we had a great visit and time together. We watched their whirlwind lives. We texted back and forth with on our youngest son and his soon-to-be bride who stayed in Santa Rosa. Both work for Crossing the Jordan and had people evacuating from one house and moving into another. Some businesses stayed open downtown so that people had meals available. We watched and listened to the news and knew it would be days before we could go home, and not sure what would be there when we did.
When we got the all clear, we picked up Sarge and headed home. The fire hadn’t reached Santa Rosa, thanks to the thousands on the ground and in the air fighting the blaze. Those first responders started with a wildfire eating thousands of acres and some homes and worked 24/7 to achieve 60% containment. The power was still out. Everything in our freezer and refrigerator had to be bagged and tossed. The house was cold, but I had yard clean up to keep me warm. The lights came back on late in the afternoon.
Rick and I hope we won’t go through an evacuation again, but if we do, we’ve improved our “GO” list. Less dog food (we didn’t need 40 pounds!), and more clothing. Have an emergency route and destination – and take the frozen meat with us. It would have been enough to feed a family for a couple of weeks. And if not, wherever we ended up, we could have had a great BBQ.
Live and learn. Thankfully, we are alive and well and do so.